Nineties nostalgia was on full display at Auckland’s Vector Arena as Weezer played their first New Zealand show since 1996. Front man Rivers Cuomo acted as the evening’s MC as he guided the arena full of fans back into time, stopping at 1994 to play the band’s debut album, aka “the Blue Album” in its entirety.
Before Weezer took the stage, Unknown Mortal Orchestra played a 40-minute set, just 18 hours after their show at Cassette Nine. The trio, led by Ruban Nielson, played well enough, and it was nice to hear Ruban’s psychedelic guitar riffs rattling around the big room’s roof. Unfortunately, the sound mix left something to be desired. The drums and bass were too loud, particularly the bass, which was on the verge of painfully loud. This left Nielson’s somewhat fragile voice struggling to be heard. But the crowd was in good spirits and gave them the attention they deserved.
The four members of Weezer came on, amid actual fanfare, at 9pm. The band is the same as it was back in ’96, except that original bass player Matt Sharp has been replaced by Scott Shriner. This, to me, is an improvement, as I remember Sharp’s stage antics, which consisted of jumping up and down relentlessly throughout the show, as if to say, “look at me, look at me”, rather annoying.
The band got right into If You’re Wondering If You Want To (I Want You To), a track from their 2009 album Raditude.
Then Rivers addressed the crowd…”Alright dawgs, we are the artists professionally known as Weezer, all the way here from the United States of America, Los Angeles, California, land of the free, home of the brave, somethin’ like that”.
He then proceeded to explain the format for the evening’s entertainment.
“This is called a ‘Memory Show’. We’re going to start out in the present day, then get in our time machine and go back in time, back through the years and end up in 1994, when we will play our debut album, commonly known as the ‘Blue Album’ from beginning to end, featuring such hits as The Sweater Song and Buddy Holly.”
He then launched in to Pork And Beans from 2008’s Red Album, and each band member (Brian Bell, guitars, Scott Shriner, bass, Pat Wilson, drums) was given the opportunity to sing a line of the song.
When the song was finished, Cuomo acknowledged their previous gig in 1996.
“It’s good to be back. Last time we were in a little club (The Logan Campbell Centre). Look at us now. This is the life, baby!”
Next up was Troublemaker. This gave Rivers the opportunity to jump off the stage and walk to the rear of the arena, singing all the way. After standing on a platform at the rear, singing and having a drink with the crowd, he made his way back to the stage after circling the entire floor. The song ended perform Rivers could get back on stage and the band filled the time with a brief instrumental snippet from Burndt Jamb, a track from 2002’s Maladroit.
The time trip continues as we were treated to songs from every album back from Raditude. Beverly Hills, from 2005’s Make Believe, was a favourite, but the biggest cheers were saved for the two hits from 2001’s Green Album, Island In The Sun and Hash Pipe. Sadly, Bryan Bell’s acoustic guitar could not be heard during Island In The Sun, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind, as they were singing along enthusiastically.
After two songs from 1996’s Pinkerton…El Scorcho went over particularly well with its lyrical reference to Green Day…the band left the stage and a brief intermission gave the fans a chance to refuel in anticipation of the Blue Album.
When the lights came back down, we were greeted by the voice of Karl, who, I’m guessing is Karl Koch, a long-time associate of the band, who proceeded to narrate a slide show of archival photos from the band’s formative years. This went on for about five minutes and just as the crowd was feeling antsy, the band returned to kick off the Blue Album with My Name Is Jonas.
Of course, one of the drawbacks of hearing a band play an entire album is that there is no sense of surprise, you know what you’re going to hear next.
Nevertheless, the romp through the Blue Album was good fun. The hits gave everyone a chance to sing along and later songs like In The Garage and Holiday revealed the geeky innocence that made Weezer so likable when they first burst on the scene in ’94.
Not unsurprisingly, the set ended with Only In Dreams, the last song on the album. Fortunately, it’s an excellent tune to go out on, giving the band a chance to have a good rave up before wrapping up for the evening.
They then took a bow and the lights promptly came up in the arena, leaving no chance for an encore.
This was obviously a show built around nostalgia and sentimentality and for those in the audience who came of age during the time of Weezer’s peak popularity from 1994 to 2001, it was a chance to relive old memories and old songs.
No doubt a similar vibe will kick in on Monday and Tuesday when the Red Hot Chili Peppers return to the same venue.
Click here to view a gallery of Weezer concert photos shot by ace photographer Michael Flynn:
Weezer set list:
- If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)
- Pork And Beans
- Perfect Situation
- Beverly Hills
- Dope Nose
- Island In The Sun
- Hash Pipe
- El Scorcho
- Tired Of Sex
- My Name Is Jonas
- No One Else
- The World Has Turned And Left Me Here
- Buddy Holly
- Undone – The Sweater Song
- Surf Wax America
- Say It Ain’t So
- In The Garage
- Only In Dreams