On its most recent tour, Weezer is finally giving its fans what they want: A taste of the past. And it's the best career decision the So-Cal rockers have made in years -- since 2002's "Maladroit," in fact.
Throughout Weezer's ongoing "Memories" tour, the L.A. rockers play two shows for each city -- one for each of their seminal '90s albums, "Weezer" (The Blue Album) and "Pinkerton," which they play in their entirety in addition to a setlist of hits. This weekend (Dec. 17-18), the band brought its six-city jaunt through New York's Roseland Ballroom, and Weezer devotees basked in nostalgia with the songs that made most fall in love with the band initially.
At both Friday's "Blue Album" show and Saturday's "Pinkerton" show, the "Weezer time machine" (as Cuomo touted) kicked off with "Memories," sing-along bait off this fall's "Hurley" release. But that was it; no other "Hurley" tracks. Onto the next album -- 2009's "Raditude" -- the band went, with 16 more years of albums to cover in less than two hours.
Video: Weezer, "Buddy Holly" and "Undone" Roseland Ballroom, 12/17/10
Weezer ran through a wide array of tracks from their discography both nights, varying the setlists slightly for fans who ponied up twice. While the band may have revisited its past during the shows, leader Rivers Cuomo proved that his stage presence has increased wildly through the years. Cuomo dominated the stage -- and the packed audience pit, the depths of which he braved -- with the boundless energy of a rocker half his age. The last few years have seen the vocalist/guitarist giving up his instrumental duties during live shows, and in doing so, creating an aggressive frontman persona removed from the nerd-god Harvard alum previously known. Stage banter and witty small talk does not exactly flow freely from Cuomo's mouth, but he managed to say a lot with his actions, particularly during the first half of each Roseland show this weekend.
Friday's show saw the band playing a hell-raising, grunting version of "Hash Pipe," as well as two other "Green Album" favorites ("Photograph," "Island in the Sun"). Saturday's performance, on the other hand, was peppered with "Blue Album" era B-sides, including "Jamie" and "Susanne," which most fans never anticipated hearing live.
Video: Weezer, "Jamie," Roseland Ballroom, 12/18/10
After a 20-minute intermission during both performances (during which concertgoers were treated to a slideshow of old-school Weezer photos), the album portion of the evening kicked off. Cuomo showed a commitment to authenticity, picking up guitar duties and sporting looks that emulated those worn in the albums' artwork. His dynamic frontman persona faded away, replaced instead by a wave of nostalgia that more than compensated.
Both performances saw fans hanging on to every word uttered by Cuomo, with some singalongs matching -- or even overpowering -- his voice. But by far, Saturday's rendition of "Pinkerton" -- the 1996 album that despite being critically panned upon release, became one of the biggest cult classics of the last 20 years -- had an overpowering response from fans, especially on deeply personal album cuts that most never thought would make a live setlist.
If Cuomo didn't choke up on "Pinkerton" album closer "Butterfly," which he played solo on acoustic, the fans had him covered. Similarly, the final song played Friday night, "Only in Dreams," served as a high point to the "Memories" tour set, with its jam session improvisation.
Video: Weezer, "Butterfly," Roseland Ballroom, 12/18/10
After experiencing this double dose of shows, it was difficult not to feel like Weezer was "back," despite the fact that the band hasn't taken much of a hiatus since 2001. But who was "back" was the band that first charmed us with its too-clever-to-be-a-debut album in 1994. It was nice to see those guys again, albeit just briefly.