Review: Weezer, Sidney Myer Music Bowl
WHEN Weezer last toured Australia, John Howard had been in office for six months, North Melbourne had just won the AFL grand final, and the nation was still reeling from the fact the Macarena had been on top of the charts for a month.
Weezer's 1996 tour in support of their Pinkerton album included nine Australian shows in October (including one in Geelong according to Weezerpedia) and in the intervening years between that tour and their return, other bands have broken up, reformed, recorded new albums, and toured Australia multiple times.
This goes some way towards explaining the anticipation ahead of this visit. Next to a Smiths reunion, the prospect of Weezer returning Down Under topped a lot of "most wanted" lists.
With so much expectation, it seemed unlikely their gig at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne could live up to it.
This couldn't be further from the truth. This was not washed-up ex-stars trading on past glories - it felt more like a still rockin' band celebrating a great record.
It was like 16 Christmases had come at once for the 8000 fans, who sang along with every word, chorus and verse.
After solid support sets from Ballpark Music and Cloud Control, with the latter roadtesting new material from a forthcoming album, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo appeared on stage - not to play the first song but to kick a soccer ball around on stage with one of the road crew as he casually waited for the sound guys to give the thumbs up for the show to start.
This appearance - so at odds with the usual routine of bands hiding back stage until the first song - perfectly summed up Cuomo's demeanour through the show: relaxed, fun, amiable and free of pretension.
After the soccer ball was packed away and Cuomo disappeared backstage, only to reappear a minute later bespectacled and with band, things kicked off fittingly with Memories, the lead single from their 2010 album Hurley.
"This is the Memories tour," Cuomo announced before making time machine noises and explaining that we would be joining Weezer on a slow trip back through time, "all the way back to 1994 and The Blue Album, which we will play in full".
This brought a bigger cheer than the band's walk-on. Even though the crowd knew it was getting the full-debut-album treatment, hearing Cuomo say it aloud was the pinch to assure us we weren't dreaming.
But first the hits, starting with 2009's (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To and on to Red Album cuts Pork And Beans and Troublemaker. The latter was rapped by Cuomo as he made his way through the crowd, all the way to barrier separating the front seating and the rear grassed area, never missing a beat as he was kissed, hugged and high-fived by adoring fans (see video below).
Pork And Beans was used to introduce the band, with each member singing a line of the second verse, showing off the fact all four of them can sing damned well (and with strangely similar voices).
There was one song from the under-rated Maladroit (Dope Nose, performed with bassist Scott Shriner on lead vocals), two from The Green Album, and then the last track of the hits section - a rousing rendition of Pinkerton's El Scorcho, with the crowd singing every single word, and the band letting us take most of the third verse unaccompanied.
Intermission featured a funny and self deprecating slide show presented by the band's friend and "historian" Karl Koch, and then the band were back - Cuomo sans suit and glasses, looking as fresh-faced as he did in the Undone film clip - launching into grungy waltz of My Name Is Jonas to a massive roar.
The between-song banter was minimal but energy levels rose, as did the enthusiasm of the singalong. The predominantly Gen-X-aged crowd were suddenly teens again and loving every second of Jonas, No One Else, and The World Has Turned And Left Me Here, but especially singles Undone and Buddy Holly.
Some of the album's deeper cuts yielded surprising moments - the vocal breakdown sections of Surf Wax USA and Holiday were spine-tingling, while closer Only In Dreams roared with epic solos and feedback.
An encore would have been welcomed but Weezer did the right thing and simply bowed and waved goodbye. If anything, the show proved how well The Blue Album is structured - the set flowed so well an encore was superfluous.
It's not surprising that many of those at the Blue show were also planning to go to the following night's Pinkerton show (judging by the exuberant response to Cuomo's question) and those that hadn't would have been searching for tickets online immediately after the Blue concert.
Let's hope it's not 16 more years before they return. That's too long to wait again for a band who reminded us all on Wednesday night that they are the best guitar-pop band to come out of '90s.