Weezer / Free Energy - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Weezer / Free Energy

live in New York (2010)

live show

This tour was for me. I'm one of *those* Weezer fans. While 2001's The Green Album and the following year's Maladroit were nothing compared to the greatness of the band's first pair of full-lengths that blew them up back in the mid-'90s (which I had only discovered a year or two prior, anyhow), they were solid albums in their own right. But when "Beverly Hills" was released in 2005, Weezer lost me. I'll admit they've redeemed themselves somewhat with enjoyable, less embarrassing singles in recent years (I'm lookin' at you, "Pork and Beans" and "Troublemaker"), but I haven't listened to any of their last four albums in full. I remain reveling in their glory days I was too young to experience.

The Memories Tour showed that Weezer isn't so much out touring to support a new record as they are nodding to the entire span of their career. They've got Hurley, Pinkerton deluxe and the Death to False Metal collection, but the best of these was getting love tonight at the standing-room, 3500-cap Roseland Ballroom--a big venue, sure, but a far cry from the amphitheaters and stadium parking lots I've seen the band play the last decade.

Sole support act Free Energy came out on stage, rather randomly, to the Ghostbusters theme. They sounded like an amalgamation of guitar-pop bands I like, or at least don't mind: the Clash...Tom Petty...Head Automatica circa Popaganda...OK Go. When they started, I didn't mind the wares they were peddling. By a few songs in, I was even more broken inside that New York didn't get Best Coast instead (as L.A. had). FE's songs sounded increasingly generic and pastiche, overreliant on "whoa"s and redundant, boring melodies. Despite a mostly indifferent crowd that may have agreed, the band seemed cheerful as shit. Their frontman had this stage presence that seemed indescribably off, but he seemed to be having fun, pointing out the few people in the audience who chose to show some sort of positive emotional or physical reaction to his band's set. They didn't even play their full half-hour, though, so it was hard to register any further complaints against them.

Another half-hour passed and Weezer took the stage to predictably wild, enthusiastic cheers. Up first, as advertised, was the band's set of hits. They opened with what would be the only song played from Hurley, "Memories," commemorating the tour at hand. And it sounded huge as hell. Despite Roseland's comparatively compacted confines considering the band's usual choice of venue, everything just sounded monstrous: stadium-rock guitars and drums all the way.

The band shifted between songs really smoothly and quickly, Rivers Cuomo pretty much leaving the crowd interaction to in-song only. During the epic, multi-part flow of "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," he navigated the medium-high wall along the audience stage left, bringing smiles across the faces of all in the VIP section making up his background. Hi-fives were certainly clamored for as he made his way back to the stage, but he'd return during later songs in this first set.

Cuomo essentially just shouted the year he was transporting us back to before the band would play a single ("2002!" ["Dope Nose"]), so the real surprise came when he said "1995!" and they played three straight B-sides from that era. It transported me back to 2000 or so, collecting Weezer B-sides off KaZaA (as it was stylized then) shortly after I'd discovered The Blue Album's greatness. I was smitten when the band parlayed the chugging, "oo"-laden "Susanne" and the muffled grunge-pop of "Jamie" to a mostly clueless audience. But older dudes in the VIP section--where Cuomo spent most of "Jamie," too--reacted like I did, smiling and singing along to a song the band supposedly haven't played live since 1996.

The feather in the cap was the chilling, epic closer to The Blue Album, "Only in Dreams." Since I hadn't gone to the night before, when they played this album in full, it was the next best thing. You can probably hear "Buddy Holly," "Say It Ain't So" and "Undone" at any other Weezer show, anyhow.

"Greatest Hits" set list (9:03-9:47):

  1. Memories
  2. Pork and Beans
  3. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)
  4. Perfect Situation
  5. Dope Nose
  6. Hash Pipe
  7. You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
  8. Susanne
  9. Jamie
  10. Only in Dreams

That first set was surprisingly enjoyable, but it wasn't even what I was here for necessarily. After a time-killing but relatively fun slideshow of older pictures and flyers from long-time guitar tech/roadie/"unofficial fifth member" Karl Koch, the band came back out and did a fair job conveying the Weezer-circa-1996 feel. A slumping, bedheaded Cuomo, either playing a role or sincere in feeling, looked awkward and nervous, white Oxford shirt tucked into dress khakis sitting well above his waist. He had no words (and few the entire set) as Pat Wilson began slamming the opening drumfill while Cuomo and Brian Bell drew out the off-putting guitar squalls of "Tired of Sex." It was on.

Mid-'90s Warped Tour push-pits broke out toward the front of the audience--and one circle pit for the double-time part in "El Scorcho"--as the band blasted through a near-seamless and tightly played, spot-on set of Pinkerton classics. Granted, this wasn't all Pinkerton nerds here: Reaction waned occasionally, and some people seemed to think there'd be an encore after "Butterfly."

However, everyone was loud and receptive to sing-alongs (and more recognizable tracks) like "Why Bother?" and "The Good Life." But during the entire 37 minutes, including a curt, mournful solo rendition of "Butterfly" by Cuomo with Koch accompanying softly on drums, a core few fans seemed consistently elated to hear a classic album finally get its proper due from the band.

Pinkerton set list (10:09-10:46):
  1. Tired of Sex
  2. Getchoo
  3. No Other One
  4. Why Bother?
  5. Across the Sea
  6. The Good Life
  7. El Scorcho
  8. Pink Triangle
  9. Falling for You
  10. Butterfly

Between the smaller venue size and fantastic set list, this was redemption hour(s). I might have a very different version of what Weezer was implying with their Memories Tour, but it brought back a pleasant feeling of nostalgia all the same.