First things first: Yes, The Pixies opening for a younger band they obviously influenced might be somewhat unjust, but at least it's not the travesty that was Cheap Trick billed under Poison last month! And Weezer have just as many hits at this point, anyway. On Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Forum — and probably every date on their current tour — Weezer more than earned their headlining, stadium-filling status and slot with a performance that had it all. I mean literally all: clothing changes, elaborate sets, in-the-crowd acoustic jams, covers, pyrotechnics and Weird Al.
Also, a Kim Deal–less Pixies, for me, is just “the ixies,” i.e., a different band. While Frank Black is an incredible musician, none of the women who've taken Deal's place have been able to hold their own vocally in nearly the same way or come close to the chemistry Deal shared with her mates. Many obviously disagree but I consider her essential to the lineup, so I skipped the opening set. At least we have The Breeders!
But back to the boys of the night. Rivers Cuomo is 48 years old. Nuts, right? At the Forum show, he looked like a 20-something onstage in his signature black-rimmed glasses, jeans and letterman sweater, which came off mid-set as a roadie stripped him of the sweaty garment and threw it into a washer/dryer combo onstage. The appliance, part of a backdrop made to look like the neighborhood garage of childhood, may or may not have been real, but we're pretty sure the sweater wasn't destroyed.
“Undone — The Sweater Song” was played around the same time, though. Before they got to that high point, they opened with the song and video that started it all: “Buddy Holly,” played in front of a Happy Days–esque set that recalled the famous video directed by Spike Jonze. It sounded hooky and wholesome as ever.
So did the second selection, “Beverly Hills,” which has the unique ability to make Angelenos (well, me) cringe and croon at the same. Teetering between genuine ode to life west of Doheny and ironic bro-chant skewering celebrity and wealth in L.A., the song has aged pretty well live — whatever it's really about — because it's catchy as hell, like most of the band's perplexing little pop nuggets melding self-deprecation, satiric humor and genuine nerdy enthusiasm. For some, Weezer jumped the shark with the wonderfully dumbass rich-y ditty (and yes, that is a reference to the Fonz's Happy Days jump on waterskis), but it was perfectly in line with stuff that came before it, like “Pork and Beans,” about the record industry's demands on bands to top the charts, or “El Scorcho,” a kinda love song inspired by the name of a hot sauce packet.
Nerd rock can have its eye-rolling moments, and Weezer have definitely written some dorky tracks and made dorkier videos, but they are still rocking — harder than ever, actually — decades later because their songs are simply that good. Some are sweet (“Island in the Sun”), some celebratory (“Hash Pipe”) and some silly, but all are fun to sing along to. Hearing a hooky chorus on the radio and doing a li'l car karaoke is one thing, but seeing it live and belting it with your favorite band (Cuomo on vocals and guitar, Patrick Wilson on drums, Bryan Bell on guitar and keyboards, Scott Shriner on bass) and a bunch of un-selfconscious kids and kids at heart at a concert is pure bliss. Weezer bring that live fervency better than most, just as they did when I reviewed them eight years ago.
Being a nerd used to be about what you wore, but glasses or sweaters or even superhero cosplay was never the point. Nerd-dom is about about loving something so much you will absolutely make a fool out of yourself to enjoy it. Cuomo, in a Nirvana T-shirt and, later, a sailor-type getup, seems to understand that more than ever as he gets older, and his cover choices, some sung in the crowd acoustically (The Turtles' “Happy Together” infused with Green Day; A-ha's “Take on Me”), illustrated this pretty well. As for the much-touted “Africa” cover: It's a faithful rendition of a unique yet cheesy classic, and like everything the band does, it walks the line between wacky irreverence and earnest musical expression.
Weezer will always lean more toward wacky no matter how “mature” they become, and I think they will always pull it off, too: They brought “Weird Al” Yankovic out to jam, and it slayed. At this point in their career the band can do whatever they want; at the sold-out Forum show, tripping out to a Toto song with the king of parody as pyro exploded behind them felt like exactly what this band should be doing right now. Hopefully more is in store.
Pork and Beans
My Name Is Jonas
In the Garage
The Good Life
Happy Together (The Turtles cover) (with some “Longview” by Green Day)
Island in the Sun
Take on Me (A-ha cover)
Burndt Jamb (with some “Smells Like Teen Spirit”)
(If You're Wondering If I Want You to) I Want You to
Feels Like Summer
Africa (Toto cover) (with “Weird Al” Yankovic)
Say It Ain't So (with some “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath)