It's hard to believe Weezer has been a band for 20 years. Yes, Weezer, AKA The Blue Album, is almost old enough to order a beer. You'd never guess it by how fresh the band's sound was last night at Hard Rock Live.
Weezer never fit the grunge rock or the emo mold that shoegazed through the '90s. They were more than happy to wear their influences, like Kiss, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, on their sleeve. They refused to date themselves with the current fashions that so many bands cling to. There were no skinny jeans, mascara, or Chuck Taylors on stage last night. Rivers Cuomo looked like the disheveled physics teacher you had in high school; polyester slacks, well-used running shoes, tie, and a sweater.
In fact, he was so nonchalant that he was on the stage during the sound check in a baggy mackintosh jacket kicking around a soccer ball, as though he didn't expect anyone would actually recognize him.
One might even go so far as to call Cuomo a mini-Brian Wilson, without all the drugs. But the moment the rest of the band joined him on stage and he strapped on his guitar to play "My Name is Jonas," the rock star in him couldn't help but emerge.
Despite Cuomo's proclivity for sonic experimentation, his style has always been heavy, heavy guitars and melody. Simple enough, right? Add Beach Boy harmonies, and you've got songs that are instantly sing-along-able. For some, concerts that might be an annoyance. For example, if I go see Springsteen, I do not want to hear 40,000 people singing "Thunder Road." I want to hear the Boss sing it. But Weezer's songs are so anthemic, that they actually benefit from a room of fans singing along.
The full house singing the "Ooooh-wee-Ooooh"s of "Buddy Holly" were the perfect antidote to the protagonist's lamenting about he and his girlfriend being made fun of. On the other hand, the audience screaming along "Say It Ain't So" to the swell in dynamics lifted the song into something greater than just guitar rock. I've extolled the virtues of the song before as a musician, and it was easily the highlight of my concert.
But wait, there's more... Like any good rock star with a wireless guitar system, even a reluctant rock star, Cuomo made a few trips off the stage. The first time, a guitar-less Cuomo jumped down the front of the stage to sing with the fans. The second time, he ditched the microphone to climb to the 200 level seats, walk down my row, and found the spotlight to perform a guitar solo mere feet in front of me. He must have known I was a fan. And I did what any modern fan does at a rock show; I scrambled to power up my cell phone to take a blurry photograph.
Cuomo, guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Patrick Wilson, and relative newcomer bass player Scott Shriner performed songs from almost each of their nine albums. And I was surprised to find so much of their later material to be as full of hooks and melodies as their earlier work. I'm not aware of any band that mixes such heartbreaking lyrics with such hit making guitar rock. No one sounds like Weezer, and it would be a real shame if some group of douche-bag hipsters actually did.
Side note: Thinking of a road trip? Weezer plays all of The Blue Album at Hard Rock Orlando on Saturday, November 10. Weezer plays all of Pinkerton at Hard Rock Orlando on Sunday, November 11.