A cynic might see Weezer's six-city Memories Tour as a type of peace offering to their longtime fans who have suffered through the release of six subpar albums since 1994's iconic Weezer (The Blue Album) and 1996's beloved Pinkerton. A cynical fan might also view the tour as a shameless attempt to cross-promote their newest single, appropriately titled "Memories".
However, both cynics and non-cynics alike can agree that the Memories tour was a tremendously enticing idea, with the band playing two nights in each city, performing The Blue album in its entirety on the first night and Pinkerton the next night, along with a number of the band's other hits. The tour made its final stop at the cavernous Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, and as expected, the results were spectacular.
Night One: The Blue Album
Much like Weezer, the Aragon Ballroom is strange. It has certainly seen better days (insert Weezer joke here), but its size and general admission floor made it a good fit for a tour that was certainly in high demand, yet deserved a more intimate setting than an arena or seated theater. The venue features a Spanish villa theme, with Terracota balconies, private boxes, and even castle spires. All of this sits below a ceiling painted like a nighttime sky, complete with twinkling stars.
Both nights began with an unimpressive set from electronic rock act, the Limousines. They sounded like a cross between Metro Station and MGMT. Needless to say, the crowd was not into it. On the second night, the band failed to even mention their name until after their last song.
Weezer kicked off their set with "Memories" from 2010's Hurley, which received only a lukewarm response from the crowd. The band would play the first half of the show as a five-piece band, with drummer Pat Wilson stepping down from the kit to handle the guitar work normally covered by frontman Rivers Cuomo. Cuomo was therefore free to work the crowd and make his presence known throughout the venue.
The band would then work backward through their catalogue, playing their biggest hits from 2009's Raditude, 2008's The Red Album and 2005's Make Believe. When the band made their way back to 2002's "Keep Fishin'", Rivers literally scaled the balcony and made his way up a private box, and then to visit a large groups of fans seated to the side of the stage. All the while, guitarist Brian Bell handled the singing duties.
Rivers would return to the stage as the band turned their attention to Pinkerton track "Falling for You". The crowd loved the spectacle of the set, especially when Cuomo ventured down on to the floor to share the mic with those in the front row.
The band would then leave the stage for an unexpectedly long "intermission." This period would feature its own brand of entertainment, as a group of preteens from "The School of Rock" made their way onstage to perform "Photograph" and "El Scorcho". I'm not sure what this says about the complexity of Weezer's songs, but they sounded pretty much spot on. Next up was a slideshow presented by the band's longtime roadie, Karl Koch. Koch took the audience on a quick tour of Weezer's history, showcasing show flyers at classy venues such as Club Dump and an early show review that bashed the band's poor live performance.
Weezer would then make their way back to the stage, having changed clothes and apparently their demeanor. They were now all business, functioning once again as a quartet with Pat Wilson returning to the drum kit.
With very little between-song banter or stage movement, the band would power through The Blue Album in sequential order as those in the crowd basked in the moment. Each song sounded perfect pumping through the Aragon's powerful sound system. The show built to an epic crescendo, with "Only in Dreams" acting as the grand finale. The fan favorite, which has rarely been played live in recent years, received a huge reaction from the crowd that inspired the group to lock arms and take a bow at the front of the stage.
Night Two: Pinkerton
While the first half of Weezer's Night One set had been quite enjoyable, the band hadn't exactly displayed much creativity in choosing to play a radio hit or two from each record. Going into night two, I was expecting more of the same, but luckily, I was wrong.
After the Limousines' set, Weezer took the stage and once again began with "Memories". They then skipped over Raditude and went straight to the huge hooks of 2008's hit "Pork and Beans". Rivers would then make his way out into the crowd during "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived". "Perfect Situation" and the excellent Maladroit track "Dope Nose" would follow. The band then took a surprising turn into B-side territory, playing three rarely heard tracks in a row, those being "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly", "Susanne" and "Jamie". Weezer would then close the first half of the show with "Only in Dreams", which once again had the crowd up in arms.
During this night's intermission, the School of Rock kids returned-albeit with a different cast-to perform Blue Album favorites "In the Garage" and "Say It Ain't So". Karl would then take the stage with an amusingly updated slideshow as well.
Finally, Weezer would return for a 45-minute set that would completely overshadow everything that had come before it, including the previous night's Blue Album performance. Beginning with "Tired of Sex" and continuing straight up to the moment that Cuomo would strum the closing notes to "Butterfly", the band turned in the type of performance that would have even the most jaded longtime Weezer fans tipping their hats.
Songs such as "Getchoo" and "Pink Triangle" exploded from the speakers and enveloped the crowd, while "El Scorcho" inspired the type of pushing and shoving that is rarely seen at Weezer shows. The highlight of the night (at least for me) was "Across the Sea", with the band conveying all of the song's twists and turns perfectly. Much like the night before, the band moved little on stage and talked even less, letting the music speak for itself.
While the show's closing number didn't quite pack the same emotional punch as "Only in Dreams", Cuomo's solo performance of "Butterfly" still provided a poignant ending to the Memories tour.
As the crowd slowly (and I mean very, very slowly) made their way out of the venue, it became clear that fans had seen something they probably won't get the chance to see again. It was the closest we'll come to stepping into a time machine to see Weezer in their prime. The set provided 45 minutes to forget about "At the Mall" and a Lil Wayne cameo, and be reminded of why we fell in love with Weezer in the first place. Was it worth the airfare, the hour-long wait for the coat check, the Chicago winter, and even having to hear songs from Raditude? You bet it was.
Set list Night One:
- If You're Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)
- Pork and Beans
- Beverly Hills
- Keep Fishin' [Brian Bell on lead vocals]
- Island in the Sun
- Hash Pipe
- Falling for You
- 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
Pork and Beans
The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Only in Dreams
Tired of Sex
No Other One
Across the Sea
The Good Life
Falling for You