HOLMDEL, New Jersey — After the set was over, the lights were cut, the smoke machines had died and the pyro was snuffed out, Rivers Cuomo stood alone onstage at the PNC Bank Arts Center on Tuesday night holding his guitar over his head triumphantly.
In the silhouette of a giant flashing “W,” Weezer’s frontman was basking in applause, soaking in the last swells of reverb and wearing the smile of a kid who had won his first recess fistfight. He had every reason to be pleased; his band had just rocked an almost sold-out amphitheater.
It’s nice to see Weezer enjoying themselves onstage again, even if it is, perhaps, a game of pretenses. (“We’ve become actors in our old age,” guitarist Brian Bell joked after the show.) When the band played New Jersey last February, their performance was underwhelming and lackluster. They came, they played, they left, they cashed their collective check (see “Weezer In New Jersey: They Came, They Played, They Left” ). This time around, Weezer served up a solid, uptempo rock show that was well worth the $25 ticket price.
So what accounts for the radical change in performance? It certainly wasn’t the road test of new material. With the exceptions of “Love Explosion,” “Dope Nose” and “Burndt Jamb,” Weezer played nothing off of Maladroit, the album they are ostensibly promoting on this tour. Instead, the band ripped through old standards from the first three albums, playing more songs from Pinkerton than I have heard them play since they toured with it in 1996. It was fun to watch. They pulled drummer Pat Wilson into midair on a riser. They unleashed hellfire (again, pyro folks). They mirrored the “gee whiz!” excitement of an amphitheater packed with kids who all secretly wished they were onstage aping the Gods of Rock.
Weezer took the stage at almost 10 p.m. and ripped through 17 songs in what seemed like half the time, starting off with “El Scorcho” (an appropriate choice considering the evening’s pyro display — I cannot stress this enough) which bled into “No One Else” and “Burndt Jamb.” Dressed in a suit, tie and black sunglasses — a look that crosses vintage Joe Jackson and Agent Smith of “The Matrix” — Cuomo took time in between songs to chat with the fans, crack self-depricating jokes and generally whoop up the crowd. The stage’s austere background was stripped to reveal a 30-foot black-light “W” hand sign during “Buddy Holly”. That too was stripped in favor of four spinning light carousels for the remainder of the set.
Before closing the show, Cuomo swapped his role of frontman for that of music critic while onstage. “I should write the reviews,” he said. “I’d write, ‘That was some solid, uptempo rock,’ and it was, wasn’t it?” Indeed.
Weezer’s July 23 set list:
- “El Scorcho”
- “No One Else”
- “Burndt Jamb”
- “Buddy Holly”
- “Dope Nose”
- “Falling for You”
- “The Good Life”
- “My Name Is Jonas”
- “Love Explosion”
- “Why Bother”
- “Undone – The Sweater Song”
- “Island in the Sun”
- “Tired of Sex”
- “Say It Ain’t So”
For a full-length feature on Weezer, check out “Weezer: Foosball Wizards.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.