Photos: Weezer & Pixies at the Schottenstein Center
A respectable number of ticketholders showed up at seven o’clock to check out the opening act – the Ipswich, England-reared rock quintet, Basement. Opening with “Disconnect,” the first single from their third and most recent studio album, Beside Myself, they played zealously through a twenty-minute, mostly up-tempo set. Those who didn’t catch Basement last week will have another opportunity in May as they’ll return to Columbus as part of the lineup for the inaugural Sonic Temple Art & Music Festival at MAPFRE Stadium.
By the time Black Francis and his Pixies band mates took the stage around eight, the audience had filled in almost completely – amped up by the steady thud of drums that introduced their first number, 1989’s “Gouge Away” from their sophomore album Doolittle. From there, it was full steam ahead through an unpretentious, precisely-delivered parade of mostly album tracks – “Wave of Mutilation,” “Classic Masher,” “Broken Face,” “Crackity Jones,” “Caribou,” and “Isla de Encanta.” Whether or not the sampling of their six studio records was inherently familiar to you, it was loud and luscious ear candy that effortlessly teetered on the edge of pop sensibility and primal scream.
The band slowed their stride mid-program, playing their two most recognizable mainstream hits, “Where Is My Mind?,” which evoked a swell of fervent cheers from the crowd, and “Here Comes Your Man,” among a longer string of songs that also included 1988’s “Cactus,” 1990’s “Ana,” and 1991’s “Motorway to Roswell.”
After an hour, the Pixies wrapped up with their debut single, “Gigantic,” from their first studio album, Surfer Rosa – heralded as essential by artists like Billy Corgan and PJ Harvey and credited as an inspiration for Nirvana’s 1991 generation-defining opus, Nevermind.
With the Pixie’s exodus, the house lights were switched on and black curtains were dropped to mask stage preparation for Weezer’s portion of the show. Twenty-five minutes later, the arena bowl was again dim and a spotlight appeared front-and-center into which Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, and Scott Shriner endearingly scrambled dressed as a barbershop quartet (à la their recent appearance in The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon’s occasional Ragtime Gals bit) while launching into note-perfect a cappella rendition of their stalwart “Buddy Holly.”
The proceedings were paused briefly as the band re-grouped on stage. Bill Haley and The Comets’ classic “Rock Around the Clock” played on tape during the transition as a similar Happy Days-inspired diorama that backdropped the original 1994 “Buddy Holly” video clip was revealed. The foursome, now comfortably behind guitars, bass, and drums, moved directly into another Blue Album standard, “My Name is Jonas.”
There were virtually no rarities to savor on this particular Weezer outing, unless you count the less-ubiquitous “The Good Life” from Pinkerton or “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” from Raditude as marginally deeper cuts. But the adoring audience didn’t seem to mind as the band played with admirable gusto through “Island in the Sun,” “Pork and Beans,” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.”
The band leaned unexpectedly hard into their recent covers (Teal Album) collection that was released in latest January, playing half of its track list in the latter part of the show. But their good, confident takes on pop standards “Paranoid,” “No Scrubs,” “Africa,” “Stand by Me,” and “Take On Me” were more than well received. Only one song (the ballad “High as a Kite”) from their latest full-length studio record that dropped earlier this month, the Black Album, made the cut.
Cuomo’s persona and voice has remained virtually ageless, leaping around the stage adeptly and yelping a few ‘let’s rock’ sentiments out to his adoring audience in between tracks. Mid-set, he hopped into a wooden rowboat adorned with a white Weezer-logoed flag, which was pushed by stagehands around the perimeter of the arena floor. He paused at the back and began to strum a few chords on his electric guitar, and then stopped when he appeared to have some technical difficulties.
“I was going to play you a song,” he said while fiddling with his six-string. “But it looks like I broke my guitar. Too much rockin’ for one instrument!”
A few minutes later, the stage crew handed him an acoustic guitar, and he played a stripped-down version of 2005’s “Perfect Situation,” pandering specifically to the fans seated in the rear of the house.
After Cuomo returned from his off-stage excursion, the band continued with “Beverly Hills” from Make Believe – cleverly substituting ‘Columbus, Ohio’ into the song’s tag line at the end – followed by “Say It Ain’t So,” complete with billows of pyrotechnics that synced with each of its signature guitar stabs on the chorus. Their official set ended with Green Album anchor “Hash Pipe.”
With the crowd’s enthusiastic urging, they quickly reappeared on stage with “El Scorcho” – the first single from the band’s 1995 cult classic, Pinkerton. The finale? An original-length redux of “Buddy Holly” to bring the program full circle.
Although Weezer’s set list didn’t surprise, it still showcased their playful eccentricity – their obvious chemistry and musical abilities demonstrating when they’re still able to engage the masses and tour arenas in the third decade of their careers.
All photos by Matt Ellis.