Concert Review: Weezer Gets Weird in Portland

What an interesting concept it would be if a band released an album and then on the supporting tour of said album played all the songs.

It makes sense. Why wouldn’t they? The band puts in the hard work, records the songs, so if they’re proud of their accomplishment and the tunes placed on the album then why not play all the songs live on the tour?

Oh wait a second, that’s exactly what Weezer is doing.

Save for some of the classic rockers playing iconic albums in their entirety in recent years bands typically don’t play all or even most of their latest release on the following tour. (Though Rush did play most of Clockwork Angels on their last tour but it was a concept album.)

Quite boldly, Weezer doesn’t really abide by all the rock and roll rules. They do things their way which probably explains the loyal following, the fun, sometimes quirky but ever so catchy music and why, just why (and perhaps hopefully) they’ll start a new trend.

If more proof is needed of how Weezer plays the game, their sold-out (fire code pushing) show on Wednesday at the very small Roseland Theater in Portland, OR practically doubled as the supporting tour of their sophomore album Pinkerton, which was not widely embraced upon its introduction to the public in 1996, but slowly accepted over time and from which Weezer played five songs.

Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo
Rivers Cuomo

The Roseland show was far from a radio hits concert as the band played just a few of their widely popular songs –  just “Island in the Sun” and Buddy Holly” as all else were deep album cuts and likely ones the casual fan never heard before. It’s safe to say there were little if any casual fans at what lead singer Rivers Cuomo described as ”these weird little shows.”

Further adding to Weezer’s testament of originality – it was a most unconventional start to a rock show if there ever was one. Promptly at 9 p.m. (the show’s start time) and looking like the Sausage King of Chicago, Cuomo nonchalantly appeared at audience level in front of the stage, drinking from a bottle and casually looking around as if he were just another fan. Once the audience figured out he was there, Cuomo waved and then worked his way on stage and slipped into an acoustic version of “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly.”

Near the end of the song, guitarist Brian Bell walked on stage to help out and the two then started an acoustic version of “Why Bother.” Bass guitarist Scott Shriner walked on stage towards the end of that song and he opened on vocals for a great rendition of “King.” Drummer Patrick Wilson followed in the same manner and all four members of Weezer were present and accounted for on “El Scorcho” the third of five songs now played from Pinkerton.

The house lights still on, Weezer played a nine-song acoustic set in front of a black curtain hiding the larger stage presence to come. The rather appropriate “December” the final tract on 2002’s Maladroit and not played since then, came next, followed by “The Good Life” and then Matt Shultz, the singer for Cage the Elephant performed a duet with Cuomo on “Island in the Sun. The last from Pinkerton “No Other One” and the popular “Buddy Holly” closed the stripped down act.

Finally after a 45-minute opening set the lights went dark and, well, the show began.

Now wearing different get-ups (except for Wilson), a full arena-style production with lights and four large television screens accompanied the band (and a fifth supporting musician) as Weezer played their new album Everything Will Be Alright In The End in order from tract one through 13. The new album is exceptionally good, ripe with classic Weezer funky time changes, offbeat rhythms and of course those kooky lyrics.

Weezer Bassist Scott Shriner
Bassist Scott Shriner

Is there any other band that incorporates and can get away with using lyrics like “Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you/Stephen Hawking can’t explain you/Rosetta Stone could not translate you” in the band’s latest single “Da Vinci.” Or how about working “nucleotides” into a song found in Cuomo’s parental ode in “Foolish Father.” Did you ever think those times tables from elementary school could be so rocking? Check out “Cleopatra.”

There’s not so much of a dud on Weezer’s ninth album, released in October, which comes across just as good if not better live. “Cleopatra” did suffer from a muffled-sound at times but got cleaned up a bit during the chorus and Bell really shined playing guitar and harmonica at the same time. Cuomo nailed the solo. The hard truthed “Eulogy for a Rock Band”  (more fun lyrics: Goodbye heroes, you had a good run/Fifteen years of ruling the planet/But now your light’s fading) is a great rock song and should be circling on radio in a few months as well as “I’ve Had It Up to Here” with that awesome guitar hook right out the gate.

Weezer didn’t leave anything to chance in showcasing their new effort. Danielle Sullivan of Portland’s own Wild Ones subbed in for Bethany Cosentino to sing her part on the fun break-up song “Go Away.” A choir consisting of men and women walked on stage mid-sing to take up the Broadway-sounding ending chorus on “Foolish Father.”

Shriner brought out the double-neck for the final three tracks and even Metallica would be proud of the metal infused “The Waste Land.” Weezer ended the set and thus the new album with a rock solid jam to finish “Return to Ithaka.”

A quick step off the stage and Weezer returned to encore with “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” cowboy hats included. After pulling out all the stops, Weezer certainly showcased like one of the greatest bands that ever lived. At least for one night.

Weezer Portland (Roseland Theater) Setlist:

1.       You Gave Your Love To Me Softly
2.       Why Bother
3.       King
4.       El Scorcho
5.       December
6.       The Good Life
7.       Island In The Sun
8.       No Other One
9.       Buddy Holly
10.   Ain’t Got Nobody
11.   Back To The Shack
12.   Eulogy For A Rock Band
13.   Lonely Girl
14.   I’ve Had It Up To Here
15.   The British Are Coming
16.   Da Vinci
17.   Go Away
18.   Cleopatra
19.   Foolish Father
20.   The Waste Land
21.   Anonymous
22.   Return To Ithaka
23.   The Greatest Man That Ever Lived

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