What was your first experience with Weezer? Was it jamming in the car with your high school buddies? Did you stumble across Pinkerton in your older sibling’s CD case? Did getting Rock Band on Christmas make you wonder whose Heine was crowding your icebox? No matter how you found out about Weezer, I’m here to say that everything you thought you knew about them was a lie.
The carefully curated image of a nerdy, late 90s garage rock band that they’ve cultivated throughout the years may have started off sincere, but things change. Weezer may still look like an under-practiced, over-bullied band of nerds, but they are an immensely talented and dedicated group of bonafide rock stars that have grown their nerdy niche from garages to arenas. That’s the truth. At the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood, along with help from co-headliner the Pixies, opener Sleigh Bells and a crowd of 19,000, Weezer showed us who they really are.
Sleigh Bells got the crowd warmed up as hordes of music lovers poured into the venue. An easy-to-listen-to, summer sound, Sleigh Bells made heads bob and got fans loose and ready for the legendary Pixies. When the Pixies took the stage, the energy level in the venue stepped up a few notches. The Pixies have plenty of punk-infused alternative rock hits to pair with slower melodic jams to move fans in every speed and direction. Massive hits like “Wave of Mutilation,” “Here Comes Your Man” and “Where Is My Mind” invigorated the throngs of rock fans that were quickly reaching peak energy output.
The Pixies played an ageless set, and the entire tour lineup echoes the idea that age is just a number. Between The Pixies, Weezer and Sleigh Bells, the 80s, 90s and 2010s are represented and melded in a way that allows original fans as well as young bucks to feel welcomed. As the flood of fans entering the venue slowed to a trickle of late arrivals, the sun began to set and the anticipation was palpable. A large black curtain was drawn to obscure the set design being dropped into place, but before long, the sun had fully set, the house lights dropped and Weezer took full control of everyone’s attention.
The first phase of their set began with “Buddy Holly” before going straight into “Beverly Hills,” and the set was made to look like a college dorm or high schooler’s bedroom. A “Cuomo” pennant and other cheeky references to the band members adorned the walls of the bedroom set as they hit old favorites like “Hash Pipe” and “The Sweater Song.” A mid-song set change during “Perfect Situation” turned their bedroom into a garage before the band launched into phase two of their set with “My Name is Jonas.”
These two set designs, combined with the fact that Weezer played many of their fan favorites at this time, created a feeling of nostalgia for the fans and band alike. When Weezer played “In the Garage” with their faux-garage backdrop, you could feel a sense of longing for that simpler time. As fans sang out the familiar lines, “In the garage, I feel safe / No one cares about my ways,” there was an underlying sadness from the fact that we’ve all gotten away from the safety of our garages. As we continue to venture out into the stark, unforgiving openness that is social media, the need for a “garage” to hide away in and be left alone is increasing, and Weezer and their fans seemed to recognize that.
Shortly after this, Rivers Cuomo (or should we say Scooters Cuomo), conjured a scooter and glided around the amphitheater to a second stage set up near the sound booth. This stage was flanked by beach umbrellas, which fans knew could only mean one song: “Island in the Sun.” After a chill-inducing acoustic rendition of “Island in the Sun,” Cuomo led the crowd in a sing-a-long of A-Ha’s hit “Take on Me” before returning to the main stage. After returning to the stage, there was one more place Weezer needed to take us. Africa. Weezer’s recently released and highly talked about cover of Toto’s “Africa” brought the house down. A perfect note-for-note cover that still harbored Weezer’s signature guitar tone was a great way to seemingly end the night.
“Africa” was the last song Weezer played before their two-song encore set that included “The Good Life” and their biggest hit “Say it Ain’t So.” There wasn’t a dull moment the entire night, and Weezer’s set, especially, was one for the ages. If there was any question left about who Weezer really is, this settled it. No more can we pretend that Weezer are nerdy, lucky and aloof. These are hard-working, professional musicians that know how to put on a damn show. Don’t be fooled. Now you know the truth about Weezer.
Photos by Grace Kelly for Bullet Music