Wednesday September 24
Madison Square Garden
Photos by David Atlas
There’s a 1988 evaluation sheet from Rivers Cuomo’s pre-Weezer metal band on Weezed.com. Not sure who wrote it, because there are three kinds of handwriting on tips like “gotta have a core following,” and “need something special.” But it does say this about Cuomo: “nothing outstanding, average – no smile no eye contact with audience.” Cuomo probably wrote it himself. And while he was all smiles and eye contact with the audience last night, he’s no less self-conscious now than he was 20 years ago. When songs began to peak, Cuomo couldn’t channel his enthusiasm into any graceful mic poses. His geek energy evacuated via pogoing, shoulders curled in, hands flapping on their wrists. He and the band wore jumpsuits, then tracksuits, then Cuomo alone wore a blue soccer uniform (number 26). No glasses. Cuomo called playing Madison Square Garden a “dream of a lifetime.” It’s easy to see now that the glasses and first two albums were the detour, he was always working toward executing his band evaluation: both “something special” and “nothing outstanding.”
The audience, even the younger members, were quiet during songs from The Red Album, though it’s those songs’ bigger guitars and more ridiculous solos that worked best in the arena. I saw exactly one guy (baseball cap, no glasses) sing along with “Perfect Situation” and “Pork And Beans.” The Blue Album and Pinkerton songs had the most people standing: “My Name Is Jonas,” “Pink Triangle,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “Undone (The Sweater Song).” Cuomo sat out for “El Scorcho,” letting Scott Shriner and Brian Bell sing most of the verses. He’s still cagey about Pinkerton, but not the cultural baggage—he talked to the audience in Japanese between songs.
”Undone” and “Say It Ain’t So” were mostly sung by the audience. And a Weezer audience is surprisingly nice to hear: lilting and musical, not annoying at all. They covered Nirvana’s “Sliver” and Oasis’ “Morning Glory.” But Cuomo was never much of a rock star. A stage hand meticulously set up a little red record player on a stool. Then Cuomo stomped over and kicked it out of the way, without explanation or conviction.
Weezer brought out a mini-orchestra, 30 guys or so, for “Island In The Sun” and “Beverly Hills,” two of the best post-hiatus tracks. Cuomo couldn’t hide his joy at the rainsticks, accordions and brass handling the melody. He conducted the orchestra with the same rounded shoulders and jerky movements. “That, my friends, is the power of the Weez!” he yelled. Kids flashed Weezer hands during “Buddy Holly,” the signal that always went up during their older, and so best, singles. It was a reminder that Weezer’s power used to come from the special fragility of Cuomo’s songs, not from the pomp of the circumstances. —Jessica Suarez