Shoreline Amphitheater, Mt. View
August 7, 2018
Photos by Raymond Ahner.
There is something magical about outdoor summertime shows. The happy alignment of good friends, good weather, and great music tends to leave an indelible mark on our memories, and can lighten the load of our daily burdens. So much so that it may even help you forget (even just for a few hours) that half of the state is on fire. Such was the scene on this warm August evening at the Shoreline, where Weezer and the Pixies were about to offer a brief escape to wax nostalgic via their sonic rock vibrations.
Weezer, the Los Angeles based quartet led by its ageless nerd of a rockstar (front-man / guitarist Rivers Cuomo), lavished the crowd in waves of carefree summer happiness by unraveling their SoCal wall-of-sound ‘sweater rock’.
As the lights dimmed and the curtain rose, the roar of the crowd shattered the quiet backdrop of an oranging early evening sunset. All eyes were fixed on Cuomo and his Weezer mates Brian Bell (guitars/keys/backing vox), Scott Shriner (bass / keys), and Patrick Wilson (drums) as they bounded onto the stage which was fashioned like the set of Arnold’s restaurant from the popular 70’s sitcom Happy Days. Continuing on the theme, the band kicked off with ‘Buddy Holly’ (Weezer – 1994).
Fans immediately left their seats, jumping around as if they were at a sock hop. As their collective cares lifted, Cuomo bellowed “Weezer loves you!”, and the band blasted into the ultra-catchy ‘Beverly Hills’ (Make Believe – 2005). Faces in the crowd were now plastered with perma-grins, the bodies attached to them bouncing in time to the swagger of Wilson’s drums as Cuomo postured against his lyrics which unabashedly proclaimed “I’m the next big thing!”
The best of the nerd-rock good feelings were yet to come as the band tossed out ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’, and the incendiary rocker ‘Hash Pipe’ (arguably the best of the set) to the absolute delight of their fans….Cuomo opined “Totally rad!”.
As the stage backdrop transformed into the Weezer garage (complete with Kiss, Quiet Riot, and Judas Priest posters), Weezer once again reached back to their debut album to crank out ‘In the Garage’, then twisted up a few covers with a rollicking version of the Turtles’ 1967 anthem ‘Happy Together’ complete with a verse of Green Day’s ‘Basketcase’ thrown in for good measure.
With that the free-for-all was on. Cuomo donned a sea captain’s hat and coat (could have stolen from Capt. Stubing on Loveboat) and left the stage holding an acoustic guitar and riding a motorized scooter through the crowd. As he did, he stopped and serenaded fans with solo versions of the smash ‘Island in the Sun’ (Weezer – 2001) and a scary good cover of the 80s classic ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha.
Easily lost in the campiness of Weezer’s presentation is the fact that Cuomo and the boys are all excellent musicians and stellar songwriters. They can effortlessly morph from pop to punk to all out hard rock, and embrace it all. This is all perfectly evident in Cuomo’s uncanny ability to bend his voice to fit any of those musical styles or the covers that Weezer perform.
To close out the main set, the band cranked out ‘Feels Like Summer’ (which has Weezer taking a foray into the pop-polished dance rock realm) complete with fire cannons, and a spot-on guilty pleasure cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’ which is unexplainably ultra-popular with millennials.
After unrelenting cheers from the audience, Weezer was brought back for an encore which appropriately ended with ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and a few bars of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ (sung by Brian Bell). All in all, a fabulous set of Weezer rock, mid-tour and at the height of their powers. As the crowd filed out all that was left in question is when the band would finally release that confounded and much anticipated ‘Black Album’….stay tuned.
As co-headliners on this tour, Boston’s seminal post-punk pioneers the Pixies lit up the stage in their typical chaotic yet understated way. Utilizing only the front half of the available stage real estate, and using only old school spot lights as a stage set, the Pixies held court in the way that only a true revolutionary band can.
Fronted by Black Francis (guitars/vox), and backed by Paz Lenchantin (bass/vox), Joey Santiago (guitars), and David Lovering (drums), the 2018 version of the Pixies holds true to the roots of the band that followed the lead of Sonic Youth and along with contemporaries Nirvana, Soundgarden, ultimately kicked opened the door for the likes of future alt-rockers such as Weezer.
The Pixies wasted no time in grabbing the assembled collective by the throat by dialing it back to the 1989 Doolittle album with ‘Gouge Away’ and ‘Wave of Mutilation’. Shaking the foundation of the Shoreline, the cutting, dissonant guitars of Santiago and Black Francis’ trademarked desperate growl took fans on a tilt-a-whirl ride through their discography.
Steamrolling through classics including “Bone Machine, “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Gigantic’”, and “Debaser”, and weaving in newer skull crackers like ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ (Head Carrier – 2016) it was apparent that the Pixies have plenty of fuel left in their rocket ship to make it there and back…and there again.
Lenchantin has proven a perfect addition to the band, not missing a beat with her bass playing or vocals. Where Kim Deal put down the foundation, Paz has honored that work and built upon it. The true test was passed with flying colors as she provided the haunting background vocals on the Pixies’ most recognizable hit, “Where Is My Mind?” made famous in the apocalyptic final scenes of Fight Club.
Opening the evening of summer revelry was the Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells. They were oddly placed on this bill, and ultimately were not a fit musically. While they do have rock elements, including crunching guitars provided by Derek Miller, their use of distorted sound patches wrapped on top of an over-produced electronic backbeat made for an uneven sound that did not resonate outside of their diehard fans who arrived early and were scattered throughout the venue. The sing-songy and repetitive pop-radio vocal delivery of Alexis Krauss came across as a bit juvenile when contrasted to the sophisticated song craftsmanship of Weezer and the Pixies.
Setlist: Buddy Holly | Beverly Hills | Pork and Beans | Undone – The Sweater Song | Hash Pipe | Perfect Situation | My Name Is Jonas | El Scorcho | The Good Life | In the Garage | Happy Together (The Turtles cover| Keep Fishin’ | B-Stage |Island in the Sun (Rivers solo acoustic) | Take On Me(a‐ha cover) (Rivers solo acoustic) | Burndt Jamb | (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To | Feels Like Summer | Africa (Toto cover) || Surf Wax America | Say It Ain’t So
For more information about Weezer, check out their website.
Setlist: Gouge Away | Wave of Mutilation | River Euphrates | Um Chagga Lagga | Caribou | Cactus | Bone Machine | Crackity Jones | Isla de Encanta | Hey | Mr. Grieves | No. 13 Baby | Monkey Gone to Heaven | All I Think About Now | Debaser | Gigantic | Bel Esprit | Here Comes Your Man | Where Is My Mind? | Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf) | Vamos
Find out more about Pixies here.
Check out Sleigh Bells on their website.