Rivers Cuomo at Beat Kitchen 4/10/18

For the majority of their career, I never considered myself a Weezer fan. I liked them well enough, but they were never a go-to for me. At the time when they first started getting popular I was in 8th grade and I have a memory of sitting at the lunch table with my friends singing “Buddy Holly” after that music video hit the airwaves of MTV. But after that, I never paid much attention to them. The only other song I really remember listening to for years after that was “Hash Pipe” because they played it all the time on Q101.

In college there was a moment I think a lot of people my age had where Napster came along and changed the way we think about music. Then I finally heard Pinkerton. This was four or five years after it came out and I thought it was incredible. To the point I almost couldn’t believe it was the same band. Then I read a little more about it and it started to make more sense. Still, it was a long time before I really got into anything other than those first two albums.

I saw them live at a festival in Des Moines a few years ago, and it changed everything. Hearing a bunch of their hit songs all back to back, it hit me that these guys did have something special going on. I don’t love everything they do, but I can see why people would. It all comes down to the writing of Rivers Cuomo. Last night he delivered a masterclass in songcraft with a bunch of Weezer tunes and some covers from contemporaries like Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins.

He opened the show with REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling,” which seemed odd. It’s such a classic power ballad that the crowd ate it up and it actually eased the tension of the 300 or so people in the room who were wondering what kind of show we were going to get. This was his third acoustic solo show this year, and they haven’t differed too much, with a couple songs getting switched out at each. 27 songs is a long set for a solo show, but Rivers kept things moving and seemed in good spirits.

He first appeared in a big puffy coat, which may or may not have been made of gortex. He said it was too cold and that we would have to warm him up. It took about six or seven songs, but eventually he took it off and it seemed to free him up a bit and he moved around a little more. He had his laptop set up in front of him, and I don’t know if it was displaying the lyrics or chords or both, but he was pretty focused on it for a lot of the songs.

He played a ton of songs off Pinkerton, which was amazing for me. A third of the set was dedicated to this one album, and rightfully so. It’s arguably the best writing he’s ever done-I’m not entirely sure what the argument against would be, but I’m sure someone is willing to make it. A couple songs off The White Album were featured. Of the later-era Weezer records, that’s probably my favorite one, so I was happy to hear those songs as well. And the solo versions were really good.

I was a little surprised by a few things during the show, though. Is Rivers Cuomo really just now starting to use a capo to play guitar? I know not everyone uses one, but it seems like something a professional guitar player would have at least tried out a few times in 30 years of playing. How is it that Rivers version of Lil Wayne’s verse from “Can’t Stop Partying” is better than Weezy’s? Did Rivers really not know that Smashing Pumpkins are a Chicago band or did it just slip his mind? He seemed sincerely surprised that people in the audience knew all the words to “1979.”

The set ended with “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly,” which was originally featured on the soundtrack for the movie Angus and then re-recorded to be the b-side to “El Scorcho.” It falls basically in the middle of the most popular songs Weezer plays at shows, but this performance felt special. Maybe because he hadn’t played it at the other two solo shows. It had been over a year since the last time it was played (SxSw 2017).

Here’s the setlist from last night: “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (REO Speedwagon), “Say It Ain’t So,” “Pink Triangle,” “When I Come Around” (Green Day), “Buddy Holly,” “Island In The Sun,” “Across The Sea,” “Today” (Smashing Pumpkins), “Can’t Stop Partying,” “El Scorcho,” “The Good Life,” “Basket Case” (Green Day), “Do You Wanna Get High?,” “Falling For You,” “LA Girlz,” “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing,” “1979” (Smashing Pumpkins), “Getchoo,” “Magic” (B.o.B.), “Medicine For Melancholy,” “Sober Up” (AJR), “No One Else,” “No Other One,” “Where Is My Mind” (Pixies), “Tired Of Sex,” “Why Bother,” “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly”