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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Last Night: Weezer's 'Secret Show' at the Regency

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 10:24 AM

click to enlarge JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009
The Regency

Better than:
Seeing an arena rock band in an arena.

Just to be clear, there was a lot of screaming going on at the Regency last night for Weezer's free "secret" show.

Fans screamed when the line they were standing in outside the venue--a line snaking around the corner and down the alley next to the club--started to move indoors. They screamed, in random outbursts, between the time the opening act, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, finished, and the time Weezer took the stage a little after 9 p.m. (Which made for fresh false starts of oh my god weezer is on stage every few minutes). They screamed, of course, when Weezer jogged into the spotlight, the group dressed in matching white hoodies and white jeans and the strobe lights began flashing. They screamed every time Weezer played a hit--which was nearly the entire set list. And, as a first for this reviewer, the fans screamed again as they were exciting the building, their excitement in no way dimming as they raced toward complimentary commemorative posters from the show.

Guys, these Weezer fans were stoked.

And their enthusiasm was completely contagious. There's nothing like being sardined into a room where hundreds of people are unabashedly and undeniably giddy to be there. I guess that's what happens when you take a band that's used to playing arenas and stick them--thanks to sponsor MySpace--in a mid-sized venue that usually houses less established acts.

One of the best things about the night was that Weezer was also stoked to be there, the band's showmanship keeping the fever pitch high through to the end (including through an encore that involved a Black Sabbath/MGMT/Lady Gaga medley). "It's not every day that you get to see an arena rock band in a venue like this," frontman Rivers Cuomo pointed out to his fans. "And it's not every day that an arena rock band gets to play for this sized crowd," he added, calling the arrangement "mutually beneficial."

click to enlarge JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
You don't stick around for 16 years--and become mainstream kings of geek pop along the way--without learning how to please your fans. And last night Weezer gave the kids exactly what they wanted--lots of oldies and goodies, with only a light smattering of new material that they couldn't as easily sing along with.

The setlist included "Hash Pipe," "Undone," "Say It Ain't So," Pork and Beans," and "Buddy Holly," among other favorites, and it only took the opening notes of these ditties to get the crowd roaring. Cuomo, who comes off a little coolly in interviews, was a bundle of energy on stage--jogging in place, bouncing on a trampoline, crushing a (pre-crushed) beer can on his head, and fondling a giant pink bra cast on stage. He was also very buddy buddy in his banter.

"This is a secret show," he quipped repeatedly. "Don't go on Twitter, don't go on Facebook. This is our little secret. Don't tell nobody. You can't even tell your grandparents."

Of course, these same social media hubs helped spread the word (many fans knew about the Weezer show and its location by "friending" MySpace Secret Shows.) But his playful chatter gave props to the folks bankrolling the gig and the fact that the kids who were there were in on something special.

click to enlarge JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
Cuomo used the fans' vocal enthusiasm to his advantage. During "Surf Wax America" he asked the crowd to "sing along like a choir of angles," and so the lines "You take your car to work. I'll take my board," quickly grew wings. The audience followed their leader, whether that meant his direct commands of getting their hands up and singing along, or more general displays of affection like casting the "W" sign with their fingers. (During "Say It Ain't So," those fingers also held lighters, as the kids held their flames aloft, old school arena style). 

There were a couple moments of what Cuomo called "business": i.e. the announcement that Weezer has a new record, Raditude, coming out Nov. 3. And part of the evening was dedicated to showcasing the new tunes. The album's first single, "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" is a fun love song about a dude taking his gal to Best Buy/she takes him to meet the folks. The other new material wasn't as clever lyrically. "I'm Your Daddy" and "Can't Start Partying" are both surprisingly cliche-riddled (the former tune about, you guessed it, a relationship where the dude wants to be his girl's daddy; the latter making fun of excess and saying nothing new). But where the words fell flat, the songs still ballooned with the band's talent for making every number sound like a hit musically.

After last night's show, I'm convinced a lull in a Weezer performance could double as a high point for a lesser act. Which is to say there was very little room in that set for disappointment. By the end of the night, Cuomo's glasses looked steamed up from afar and the Regency smelled like a locker room, the sweat of the band and its fans just one more way the excitement in the room was showing itself to everyone in attendance.

Critic's Notebook

By the Way:
MySpace Secret Shows--free, and available for the price of befriending the name--have included some great past performances. Gnarls Barkley, Willie Nelson, and the Cure have played gratis gigs for the site in the past.  

New Weezer Video: "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To"


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Ian S. Port


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