Concert review: Weezer at the Harbor
blog by Ben Kirst • July 14, 2012 @ 11:00am
The band: You all know who how Weezer is, right? Let’s skip the band bio and note that original members Rivers Cuomo (vocals / guitar), Brian Bell (guitar) and Pat Wilson (drums) were all onstage for Friday night’s Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor show. Scott Shriner, the replacement for original bassist Matt Sharp’s replacement, Mikey Welch, completed the quartet. Cuomo was dressed in perfect nerd fashion with his signature black glasses, a tan track jacket, blue-checkered shirt and grey slacks. Bell wore what appeared to be a sweater vest on a humid, 80-plus-degree night. Shriner showed off his guns with a sleeveless black t-shirt and Wilson wore a striped red tee. Don’t care what the band wore? Tough, pal. Go read Wikipedia if you want to see the millionth recap of the band’s discography.
The venue: The Harbor? Canalside? The waterfront? The Inner Harbor? I never know what to call this area, so I’m going to stick with “the harbor.” Anyhow, Weezer played at the harbor, a venue that is rapidly becoming my favorite in the region for big shows. Are the acoustics the best? Nope. Are the sight lines spectacular? I don’t think so—I feel like the people onstage look like ants from more than a few yards away. Regardless, every show at the harbor draws thousands of people, the beer is cheap and ample and the night feels like an event. Whether it’s Weezer or Seether playing to a writhing wall of humanity that stretches from Marine Drive to the edge of Lake Erie or just a few thousand gleeful office workers, kids and suburban visitors hanging out while some unknown opening act pounds away in the background, the harbor feels important. Tell someone you went to a show at the harbor and the first question you get is, “How was it?” Not the band—“it,” as in the experience. We want to hear about the party. Musical purists be damned, I think that’s great.
The crowd: Large. Cheerful. Fairly young—I’m in my mid-30s and I felt like there were a lot of people my age, but not many older, and a strong contingent that was quite a bit younger. Weezer is an interesting draw: they have a distinct strata of fans. There is the old guard—people like me who loved the Blue album and Pinkerton and still think that Matt Sharp should be playing bass. There’s the next group, a little younger, that picked up on Weezer as a cult favorite around the turn of the century, the group that turned Pinkerton into an emo bible and helped resue the band from a date with obscurity. Then there are the Millennials who latched onto Weezer with each progressive album, falling in love with hits like “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills” and becoming just as enamored with the geek-rock kings as any of the earlier fans. It’s really kind of a beautiful thing.
I did see the opening salvos of one fight in the crowd, but it was quickly diffused. Frankly, the idea of fighting at a Weezer concert seems a little ridiculous. This is not a particularly aggressive band, at least in terms of raw physicality. Save it for the Halestorm concert, guys!
The performance: Let me get the criticisms out of the system first—Weezer played 18 songs in roughly an hour before taking a break before a two-song encore, which seems a little speedy for a $40 ticket. The songs were jukebox versions of their hits, with very little variation from the what you’d hear on an album (besides the fact that it was live, of course). Interaction with the crowd was fairly limited. Considering this was a.) the first stop on the band’s 20th anniversary tour of the United States, b.) supposedly a celebration of the Blue album and Pinkerton and c.) Weezer’s first Buffalo performance since the 1990s, Weezer did not seem particularly enthusiastic, nor did the band dig deep into their back catalog to mine for revered gems from the past (“El Scorcho,” “In The Garage,” “Jaime,” “Only In Dreams,” for example, did not make the set). So there’s all of that.
Now allow me to indulge the Weezer nerd in me: it was awesome. Oh, it was awesome! The band opened with Pinkerton’s underrated “Tired of Sex,” followed immediately by “My Name is Jonas.” The opening notes of that song literally gave me goosebumps. I had ran into some friends from my hometown—the guys who were listening to Weezer with me on battery-powered cassette decks at parties in the woods—and my buddy Bob summed it up well: “They’re on this sh#t, man.” He was right—it sounded perfect.
Weezer then burned through “Troublemaker,” gave “Undone (The Sweater Song)” a surprisingly early appearance in the set, and rolled through “Put Me Back Together” and “Beverly Hills,” which earned a particularly enthusiastic response from the huge crowd. Cuomo meandered into a little singer/songwriter territory, strumming a solo while singing some of his typically earnest-yet-obscure lyrics. I had a bad flashback to Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, but he tied it all up with a reference to “...islands in the sun,” which, of course, drew war whoops from the crowd and led into “Islands in the Sun.”
“Dope Nose,” from the underrated Maladroit album, was next, followed by “Surf Wax America”—a great pull from the Blue album—and aggressive versions of “Can’t Stop Partying,” “Keep Fishin’” and “Hash Pipe,” another Maladroit favorite. I was personally pleased that “Suzanne,” a selection from the Mallrats (remember that movie? No? Oh.) soundtrack made the cut. Cuomo engaged with the crowd at the end of “Perfect Situation,” leading the massive throng in song—“One more time, Buffalo,” he implored, “you sound like angels”—and then an audience-pleasing rendition of “On Drugs.” At the open of “Pork and Beans,” Cuomo introduced each member of the band, noting their hometown, leading, of course, to drummer Pat Wilson, a native of Clarence—a mention that drew another chill-inducing roar from the crowd, who were led by Wilson in an impromptu “Lets go Buff-a-lo” chant.
Then it was into “Buddy Holly,” “The Greatest Man in the World,” and a brief break before an encore featuring a cover of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” and Weezer’s own “Say It Ain’t So,” a track that was released as a single exactly 17 years prior. More chills. I LOVE YOU, RIVERS.
The verdict: The beer flowed like wine. It was hot and beautiful outside. Weezer played a live set of 20 extremely recognizable songs, each of which stir varying levels of delicious 1990s- and 2000s-related nostalgia. Yes, there were little disappointments here and there—see above—but nothing that would spoil the fun of the evening. If you didn’t have a good time, I don’t know what to tell you. Great work, Buffalo Place.