DULUTH, Georgia — It's been said that rock and roll is the soundtrack of suburbia. And if that's the case, the Foo Fighters and Weezer picked a heckuva place to kick off their co-headlining tour on Thursday night: the Arena at Gwinnett Center in beautifully manicured Duluth.
Nestled in between an apartment complex, a shopping center and a pond full of geese, the Gwinnett is suburban sprawl perfectly realized: an unassuming arena with enough obtuse angles and frosted glass archways to pass as both a 12,000-seat venue and a shopping mall (it also kind of looks like a dentist's office).
Not a whole lot of rock passes through Duluth. Most big rock acts play the Philips Arena in nearby Atlanta. So when Weez and the Foos tapped the city as the jump-off point for their Foozer Tour (jokingly a.k.a. the WeeFighters Tour), the kids around here were understandably psyched. They crushed tallboys in the parking lots, cranked Weezer tunes from their cars (the crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Weez) and snapped up $25 concert T-shirts with shocking voracity. And they screamed. A lot. Before the show, even.
And perhaps sensing all this pre-show energy, this anticipation to let loose and hold cell phones aloft, Weezer and the Foo Fighters responded with an unabashed, honest-to-goodness arena-rock spectacle. The kind you don't see anymore, chock full of lasers and dry-ice smoke and confetti, huge amps and high-tech special effects. Full of guitar solos and lighters-in-the-air moments. Totally loud. Totally overblown.
Taking the stage first (surely these things must be decided by a coin toss or something), Weezer understood that they had to take their geek-rock game to another level. As the closing strains of "When You Wish Upon a Star" faded away and the stage lights slowly came up, frontman Rivers Cuomo stuck a rock-star pose (fist held aloft) and launched into the first "woah-oh-oh"s of "Don't Let Go," which were promptly drowned out in a sea of copious cheers and popping flashbulbs.
Subsequent numbers ("My Name Is Jonas," "Peace" and "We Are All on Drugs") were met with similar responses, Cuomo trying his best to be heard over the raucous crowd. Yet he seemed to be enjoying it all, cracking a smile and jerking guitar solos out of his hunched frame like an epileptic Frankenstein's monster. He paraded back and forth across the stage — which was draped in a massive tapestry featuring the illustrated dragon/fish thingy from the cover of the band's latest, Make Believe — standing atop amplifiers and leading the audience in a sing-along version of "Perfect Situation." During "El Scorcho," he actually tossed his guitar and wandered the stage like someone's drunk uncle, clutching the mic and mumbling his way through the tune.
Weezer concluded their set in an energetic, big-budget flurry. First, Cuomo popped up on the arena floor to perform an acoustic version of "Island in the Sun." Then they picked a random fan out of the crowd to play guitar on "Undone - The Sweater Song." And finally, as massive cannons launched confetti high in the air, and the now-ubiquitous light-up "W" ascended behind them, Weezer ripped through a sped-up version of "Surfwax America," leaving their guitars throbbing onstage and the audience stunned. It was everything previous shows on their Make Believe tour were not (see "Rivers Proves He's No Gene Simmons At Weezer's NYC Show"). It was large and bright and manic. It was Weezer Las Vegas.
While the Weez brought a whole bag of tricks, the Foo Fighters just plain brought it. Opening their set in total darkness, they crunched through the opening chords of the title track from their latest, In Your Honor, Dave Grohl screaming the opening, "Can you hear me!?!?!" into the void. And as the lights blasted to life — revealing a stage littered in broken amps and massive LED screens — the Foos ripped through the tune at breakneck speed, Grohl headbanging ferociously as crowdsurfers helicoptered toward the stage and empty cups of beer went skyward.
The Foos kept the pace up for most of their set, turning "My Hero" into a thrashed-up guitar exercise and chugging through "All My Life." When the black-clad Grohl finally did stop for a moment, it was only to dare the fans in the audience to sing louder than him on "Best of You" (which they almost did).
But as all good arena-rockers know, you've got to slow it down for a few minutes, and Grohl did, playing a solo version of "Everlong" beneath a ceiling of smoke and green lasers and slowing up the first verse of "Up in Arms" (which he dedicated to local birthday boy/Mastodon bassist Troy Sanders). Of course, the sentimental moments were fleeting, as the band blasted into a truly epic version of "Stacked Actors," complete with Santana-ish guitar breakdowns and an honest-to-goodness Taylor Hawkins drum solo.
Then, after a cigarette-smoking, towel-wearing Hawkins led the band through "Cold Day in the Sun," Grohl reassumed his frontman position and thanked the audience for coming out and singing along. He held up a cup of beer, saluted those in attendance, and sped through a version of "Monkey Wrench." And then it was all quickly, loudly over. The lights in the arena turned on, revealing a cement floor soaked in beer and covered in confetti. And the crowd — many still shirtless and singing along — reluctantly left, back to their cars. All a bit exhausted, all sweaty with eardrums ringing, all smiling. All back into the suburban night.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.