Behind the guise of his nerdy recording artist persona, Rivers Cuomo gets labeled a lot of things: heartfelt songwriter, clever lyricist and unlikely rock hero, to name a few. Plug the poor guy into an amp in front of a couple hundred people and he is often forced to face the wrath of what can only be called a media shit storm. Sure, Weezer may not be heralded for their stage presence — I vaguely recall likening them to “rockin’ robots” during past performances — but goddamn it, they make some pretty impressive albums (and can pull off the sweater vest better than any group I know).
Opening act Hot Hot Heat had one message for their small, yet enthusiastic crowd; that a little immature wailing and keyboard pounding never hurt anyone. My expectations for the headlining act may have been lowered just a wee bit more after Hot Hot Heat’s energetically dance-worthy renditions of “Jingle, Jangle” and “Bandages,” but who am I to begrudge the men behind “El Scorcho?”
What Weezer accomplished in their encore-free two-hour set on Friday night stood as a life lesson on the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ With ornate stage sets, dizzyingly bright strobe lights and a back-up guitarist all in place, the evening became less about the celebration of ’90s dweebdom, as “Rivers Cuomo: Rock God” was unveiled to a less-than-rapturous audience. Freed of his obviously cumbersome Stratocaster, Cuomo sauntered around the stage, skipped through legions of fans and danced along awkwardly to the obnoxious “gimme gimme” from “Beverly Hills.” While the initial appeal of this amalgamation of Mr. Cuomo seemed enough – eight rows back and I could still smell lead singer sweat as he perched atop the mixing board to belt out “Island in the Sun” – the end result left you feeling a little bereft. Sandwiched in between classics like “My Name is Jonas” and “Tired of Sex” were a number of subpar selections off the recently released, Make Believe and 2002’s Maladroit. The painfully sing-song anthem “We Are All On Drugs” and just plain unworthy “Dope Nose” took away from the show just as much as renditions of Blur’s “Song 2” and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” — complete with a guest performance by one lucky (and capable) pit-dweller, Cheyenne — added to it.
In short, I’d like to take the opportunity to apologize to the likes of Rivers, Jason, Patrick and Matt. As a music journalist, I hereby promise to stop verbally abusing these little guys. Sure, your shows may not be choreographed and your onstage banter may not be all that witty, but you’ve successfully managed to set trends, inspire your contemporaries and seamlessly weasel your way into an episode of “Happy Days.” And for that, we thank you and beg for the return of the stiff, boring and musically conscientious front man of yore, if not now, then next time around.