Haters gonna hate, and Weezer hating may have reached its pinnacle this year, especially with the highly publicized “We will offer Weezer $10,000 to break up” petition. I may be in the minority of “hip” rock critics of the 21st century, but I think there’s something about Weezer that will always be compelling. Whether it is the crisp, pop goodness of the Blue Album or the LOST hyping Hurley, Rivers and gang prove that they truly know their craft. Many of my friends and family know me as a Weezer fanatic, stalwart and often, apologist. (I even own this.) So how could I turn down the opportunity to see my favorite album of the 90s in its entirety?
You all know the story: Rivers Cuomo attempted to follow a somewhat light-hearted album with a dark, highly ambitious one that told the story of his insecure mind, fragile self-esteem and twisted fantasies. But when Pinkerton was released, it was panned, mocked and blasted. After such a backlash, Rivers retreated, going into seclusion, never to be heard from for three years. During those three years, Pinkerton built highly dedicated following and inspired new artists across the world. He reemerged, enthused by a new bout of popularity, but he was not yet ready to embrace those days. Rivers ran from Pinkerton by releasing strong yet relatively mindless pop for the next ten years. It wasn’t until this year, with the Deluxe Reissue and the Memories Tour, has he shown any fondness for those dark times. It’s good to have you back, dude.
The night was split in two sets: hits and album. If the Roseland was our Delorean, Rivers was our Doc Brown, rolling back the clock of Weezer, making all the right stops. Our journey began with “Memories,” Hurley‘s lead single and a perfect introduction for a night of nostalgia. From there, we (the audience as well as the band) experienced many of the Weez high points of the last 16 years, including Red’s “Pork and Beans,” Make Believe‘s “Perfect Situation,” and Green’s “Hash Pipe.” The second half of their first set was the most shocking with rousing and flawless renditions of early b-sides “Susanne,” “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly,” and “Jamie,” some of which haven’t been performed since 1996.
For most of the first set, Rivers pawned off his guitar duties to Pat Wilson, traditionally a drummer, allowing him to go into full-on rock god, Mick Jagger mode, which fit him better than one would expect. They brought down the house on a triple-axe attack of “Only In Dreams,” Blue’s epic closer.
A brief intermission gave time for head Weezer historian, fan club leader and resident super-nerd Karl Koch to present his slide show of Pinkerton era photos, which featured many pictures of a depressed Rivers. Shocking. There were also some real gems in there, including a clip of Rolling Stone‘s Worst Albums of 2006–which had Pinkerton at #2–also known as The Moment Rolling Stone Became Irrelevant.
The band returned with a costume and demeanor change, both to better suit the albums darker, introspective tone and to help the time travel effect. They roared through the album perfectly, and I don’t use that word loosely. In a set that was surely tighter, more loyal to its recorded counterpart and no doubt more energizing than any performance from the 90s, Weezer reminded fans (and themselves) that Pinkerton really is a game-changing masterpiece.
The audience at the sold-out Roseland Ballroom, which included former MTV VeeJay Matt Pinfield and Titus Andronicus lead singer Patrick Stickles, was light-years beyond all Weez-bashing and showered love in the form of cheers and flying =W=‘s. The emotional tipping point came during the bridge on “Falling For You,” where everyone realized we were almost at the finale. “I’m ready, let’s do it baby!”
My personal highlight was the look on Rivers’ face after he finished leading a cathartic sing along of “Butterfly.” It was the face of a man with no words. It was the face the face of a man afraid of what he has done. But, most importantly, it was the face of a man who was finally ready to embrace his frightening, turbulent and hurtful past due to the overwhelming support and admiration of a generation that he raised. Down with haters, we love you Rivers. Thank you.