Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weezer Justifies Place in History, Trek to Out-of-the-Way 'Venue' -- Chicago (Hammond) Concert Review

Concert Review

The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
Hammond, IN
July 27, 2012

Although I have most of their albums and like almost everything on them, Weezer has long been something of an afterthought for me.

I rarely think to listen to their music and, until Friday night, I'd seen them live just once, primarily because they were on a double bill with the Foo Fighters in 2005.

While I believe Weezer belongs in the class photo of "alt-rock superstars of the '90s," especially among those that still remain active today, they haven't consistently elicited the active affinity I have for contemporaries like Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Soundgarden and other alternative rock luminaries. (Check out my list of the 100 Best Alternative Rock Bands of the Past 25 Years, which I put together largely to assess just how highly I regard Weezer.)

I won't say that I owe Weezer an apology, as I have supported them over the years and when I had seen them in '05, not only were they far lesser than the Foo Fighters, but I even liked opening act the Kaiser Chiefs a bit better.

But on the basis of Friday night's concert at the Venue at Horseshoe Casino--a comfortable but rather sterile setting for a rock show--and a rather thorough re-exploration of their catalog beforehand, they certainly deserve to be more prominent on my mind's shortlist of the world's best extant bands. And not simply for their mid-'90s glories--their debut "blue album" and follow up, Pinkerton--as their set included songs from across their eight studio discs, all of which have their moments.

After a solo acoustic opening set by Jason Jeka of Chicago band Fivestar Deluxe, which showed some nice songwriting talent to a crowd that didn't seem to much care and would've been well served with a couple cover songs, Weezer took the stage with "Undone - The Sweater Song" from their debut.

I've never been clear if singer and band leader Rivers Cuomo is really as geeky as he looked in videos or simply plays up a nerdy persona; I still don't know, but it seems the former may be true. In a sweater over an Oxford shirt, he certainly appeared overdressed for the occasion, but as he says in the great "Pork and Beans" off 2008's "red album," "I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like." More power to him as Harvard geeks everywhere are inheriting the Earth.

Other than their sparkly W that mimics the Van Halen logo and some nice lighting, there wasn't much to the Weezer show besides about 80 minutes filled with hard rocking songs featuring great hooks. Cuomo barely spoke to the audience and although he made mention of being in Indiana, he didn't acknowledge the Illinois contingent that had driven to Hammond to see Weezer's only area show.

This wasn't much of a detraction as I'll always take great music over silly stage patter, but while Weezer sounded ever bit as good as I could've hoped--despite a terrific run, they still should have much life left in their career--the intangibles that can make an excellent concert truly transcendent weren't readily apparent.

While the relative brevity wasn't as rueful as it would've been for other bands--2-1/2 hours of Weezer would frankly be too much, given the stylistic similarity of their songbook--I would've appreciated about 10 more minutes, perhaps with "No One Else" as a more satisfying closer than "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived." (You can see the full Hammond setlist here).

But highlights were many, including "We Are All on Drugs," "Island in the Sun," "Hash Pipe," "Surf Wax America," "Buddy Holly" and a fun, seemingly reverent cover of Poison's "Talk Dirty To Me" to open the encore.

While it entails paying to cross the Skyway, the Venue isn't really any farther from downtown Chicago than the Allstate Arena or Akoo Theater in Rosemont, and if it wasn't for lane closures on the Dan Ryan I would've made it home to Skokie in about 40 minutes.

I am also glad Weezer played there rather than the Aragon, which they commonly do, as I relished the ability to sit down throughout the concert. That said, the Venue isn't a venue I am likely to frequent and although I had long noted the Weezer date, I wasn't intending to go until a friend noticed that discount tickets were available through Goldstar.

It turned out he wasn't able to go, but after delving deep into my Weezer albums, I realized this was a band--if not quite an all-time great, pretty close to it--that I really should catch again.

I'm glad I did.

While I still hope to discover new bands that I really like, it's nearly as gratifying to re-appreciate old ones.

No comments: