Rocking a stadium is no mean trick. Plenty of bands do stadium tours because they’ve got the audience, but the ability to blow the roof off a 5,000-seat venue doesn’t mean you can knock ’em dead in an arena. Some have done it – get your hands on Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan and hear the decibels erupt – but many have not.
Platonically, Weezer is a band fit for arena rock. Their guitars sound huge, their music is full of explosive dynamics and their choruses invite fans to sing along. At their show Monday night at the Continental Airlines Arena, however, something didn’t translate as they played to a crowd some 10,000 deep.
What appeared lost was Weezer’s former sense of irony. In the beginning, the band seemed to have its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, taking all that was goofy and great about arena bands such as Kiss, wiping away the makeup and replacing it with joy and sincerity. When Weezer churned out the Blue Album in 1994, they brought all of the elements of an arena rock show to small, slavishly devoted audiences. Suddenly, little theatres had giant, lit-up “W”s hanging from the rafters, and fans were brought in on the joke. Here was a band unabashed about its love of a clean, classic rock and roll sound at a time when Big Muff fuzz boxes reigned and fabricated grungy angst was status quo. But now they’re actually playing arenas.
Being a Monday, the venue was only partially packed, though the opening acts, Saves the Day and Ozma, did their best to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Saves the Day, especially, played like they had something to prove – which they did, considering that it was their first arena show for a hometown crowd. Singer Chris Conley snapped himself back and forth with his pogo-meets-Axl Rose-hip-swivel as bassist Eben D’Amico, guitarists Dave Soloway and Ted Alexander and temp drummer Damon Atkinson pulled off an impressively tight set.
By the time Weezer hit the stage, the crowd seemed suitably warmed up, as evidenced by the cavalcade of screams that filled the stadium when the band emerged. Frontman Rivers Cuomo was decked out in a Maoist-looking outfit and sported a very Smile-era Brian Wilson beard. Guitarist Brian Bell came out in a royal blue cowboy shirt, while drummer Pat Wilson was clad in camo and bassist Scott Shriner wore a gray and navy baseball T. The crowd immediately tossed “W” hand signs into the air. Weezer kicked off their set with “Island in the Sun” while playing against a psychedelic backdrop of spinning colored lights. The band then introduced “In the Garage” as “some Cheez Whiz,” tore it up and went straight into “Dope Nose” where they dropped the curtain behind them to reveal a backdrop of lit, concentric square panels.
The crowd seemed most responsive to the old hits, such as “Say It Ain’t So” and “My Name Is Jonas,” the latter of which, seven songs into the show, prompted the first sightings of moshing. They also got downright ferocious over newer offerings like “Don’t Let Go” and “Knock-Down Drag-Out.” For “Only in Dreams,” exploding Mylar confetti was shot over the crowd. All in all, the set was a mix of new and old (Pinkerton’s only contribution to the set list was “Tired of Sex”), rarities and previews of Maladroit that kept the crowd’s attention.
But that’s about all it did. Maybe it was the marginal sound system or Monday-night blues, but Weezer didn’t come off their best to the large audience. They did little to engage the fans, barely speaking to them from stage, much less to one another. Weezer simply came, played and left, letting their songs do the work for them. Which is appreciable, but also downright clinical and, even in an arena, felt wanting.