Weezer, Free Energy
Live at Roseland Ballroom: Pinkerton Night
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Rivers walks onstage at Roseland Ballroom on Saturday night not wearing a cowboy hat or a white jumpsuit or a mustache. He has on a navy blue cardigan, a tie, and his glasses. So far, so good. He hollers into the mic, very rock star like, about how we better get ready to go in “a Weezer time machine!” by first going back “to August 2010!,” then launches into a furiously loud rendition of “Memories,” the lead track from their summer release, Hurley, and I worry, just a little. He gallops around the stage, acting more macho than a man in a cardigan whose hair is thinning probably has a right to, leaving guitar duties to longtime axeman Brian Bell and appropriated drummer Pat Wilson (they’ve enlisted a touring drummer), but no one cares. He ticks off the years (“2009, The Red Album!”… “2005, Make Believe!”… ), leading the band into one or two singles from every album in their catalogue (save for Pinkerton, that’ll come later, and Raditude, because, ugh). Even “Pork and Beans” is met with jubilant yells from the crowd.
On multipart epic “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn),” he runs along the side of the stage into the VIP pit, slapping hands with audience members; everyone loses it. During the slightly syrupy “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly,” he stands on the elevated drum stand with a towel on his head, stripping away its lovey-dovey sentiment in favor of fiery “la la la’s.” On Weezer’s recent records, this type of tradeoff is generally considered the band’s downfall, but, in a live setting, it works to their advantage. For a man who has spent the better part of a decade fantasizing about being a rock star, it’s safe to say that his dream is manifesting. There’s constant flashing of the =W= hand sign, crowd surfing, and everyone around me — literally everyone — is singing at the top of their lungs. This is just plain old fun. Plus, “Jamie” makes an extremely rare appearance(!), and “Only in Dreams,” the chosen Blue Album track with Rivers on guitar, is as beautifully pummeling as anyone could’ve hoped.
After a slideshow intermission led by 18-year-long Weezer webmaster Karl Koch (one slide shows the 1996 Rolling Stone readers’ poll ranking Pinkerton one of the worst albums of the year; there are boos), the band returns and resumes their respective instruments, circa 1996. Now Rivers is wearing a white button-down shirt, brown grandpa slacks, and is without glasses. The illuminated =W= from the previous set is replaced by a backdrop of the Pinkerton album cover. Brows permanently furrowed, he always looks like he’s just two minutes away from tears, but there’s something particularly stoic about his demeanor now. There’s a bedlam of guitar feedback, and out comes “Tired of Sex.” Without a word in between songs, they march through Pinkerton, note by note. You could call it a lack of energy or feelings stemmed from Rivers’ well-documented initial embarrassment of the album, or maybe, maybe they’re attempting to deliver the most straight-laced rendition possible, giving fans what they’ve been begging for since 2001. The crowd reacts appropriately: cultish singing, clusters of kids playing air guitar, more crowd surfing. When the middle chunk of “Why Bother,” “Across the Sea” (moment of silence), “The Good Life” and “El Scorcho” sets in, we struggle between not wanting one song to end while wanting to hurry to the next favorite.
The only tricks they pull is allowing Brian to take over the “I asked you to go to a Green Day concert” verse on “El Scorcho” and going silent for “you’ll keep my fingernails clean,” letting the crowd admire their collective vocal work. Almost exactly 40 minutes later, and still not a word from any member, the band exits the stage, leaving Rivers to close with the acoustic, heartbroken “Butterfly.” It’s easy to forget just how good Pinkerton is. For as many times as you listened to it as an emotionally charged 14-year-old on your sister’s hand-me-down stereo (I might be projecting here), it’s not one that seems to be put on regular rotation nowadays, maybe because that would be admitting to ourselves we’re not exactly “grown-up” after all. It’s even easier to forget that there’s an entire generation of kids brought up on Clear Channel radio who love Weezer, not for their first two albums, but for the band they are now. In the end, Rivers raises his guitar over his head and bows; all of Roseland Ballroom goes wild — the ultimate justification for him, and us — no matter with which group of fans you find yourself aligned. He’s got our letter, we’ve got his songs, if only for tonight.
“Pork and Beans” (The Red Album)
“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)” (The Red Album)
“Perfect Situation” (Make Believe)
“Dope Nose” (Maladroit)
“Hash Pipe” (The Green Album)
“You Gave Your Love to Me Softly” (B-Sides)
“Only in Dreams” (The Blue Album)
“Tired of Sex”
“No Other One”
“Across the Sea”
“The Good Life”
“Falling for You”
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury