May 13, 2005

Weezer remains elusive to wide spectrum of fans

The Aragon Ballroom lacks all semblance of charm. The managers, therefore, feel compelled to lure top-notch bands that bring in the multitudes. Weezer filled the role last Wednesday evening while on tour to support their new album Make Believe, brandishing their nerd-rock to a sold-out crowd under the artificial terra-cotta and kitschy Mediterranean façades that pitiably grace the theater's interior.

Their opening band Ringside played to an initially humdrum and nonchalant audience that withheld any sort of enthusiastic ovation in lieu of lukewarm applause—as can be expected for all opening bands. Not that the indifference wasn't undeserved. A miasmatic "whhhyyyy does everybody run away from me" during a song of the same title left me wanting to bolt for the door. I was simultaneously glad that my tickets were complimentary and envious of my neighbor and his earplugs. Ringside's lead singer Scott Thomas made a predictable last gasp to ceremoniously conclude his set by belching out one last primal scream as the crowd courtesy-clapped the band off the stage.

The tactic of hiring pathetically poor opening bands to boost the anticipation of the real deal should really be subjected to some sort of music industry regulation. Nevertheless, the ploy worked. Weezer led off with their nondescript "Tired of Sex," and then immediately came back to their proverbial bread-and-butter—older genre ditties that transported this reviewer back to his baggy pants-wearing high school days. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo launched into "In the Garage" in his typically low-key stoic style, which at first I found inaccessible; but then I remembered that I like low-key people and I suddenly found him endearing.

"Pardon Me," a song off the new album with a mellower beat, nearly brought a host of hoisted cigarette lighters from the stoner faithful, who by this time had been provoked into mosh pit hysterics and crowd-surfing, upon which an army of overweight, orange-clad bouncers cracked down with tenacity. Cuomo concluded it with a "thank you that was awesome," the closest thing to personable zeal that came out of his mouth the entire evening.

The fact that his low-key and nearly self-defeating attitude cascades into his offstage demeanor is the most surprising thing. When asked what he will be doing with his two-week break after the tour and a quick stint in Paris, Cuomo answered, "I don't really know. Probably nothing."

I think "stay in Paris" is the correct answer, I thought to myself.

"But I don't know anyone there."

So what? Walk around.

"But I don't know the language."

Chalk one up for curiosity.

Potential consumers slightly more adventurous than Cuomo who are looking to snatch a copy of Make Believe will find six songs that the band performed at the graceless Aragon Ballroom. "Hold Me" is a lighter riff with a climactic wail of woe that induced me to think, "Thank heavens that he has a somewhat pleasant voice," because the rest of the song is a bit lacking. The ending was more reminiscent of the musically celestial culmination of a high-school romance flick than anything else—does Cuomo want to tell us that the band's career is meeting its bitter end? No songs from Maladroit made the concert cut, and the six from the new album lacked the unique nerd-rock magic that so distinguished Weezer's early career.

"The other six are good, too," Cuomo said when I asked him if the songs on the new album that the band did not perform are as superb as what the Aragon faithful witnessed. I sincerely hope that they are a notch better than what was seen this past Thursday, unless Cuomo and band mates want to face the prospect of catering to a fan base that includes only the die-hards and the musically illiterate.

To their credit, their fan constituency transcends the generations, a testament perhaps to a remaining vestige of staying power, though I suspect that countless fans—mostly those in their mid-20s—latch nostalgically onto songs like "Buddy Holly," "Undone," and "In the Garage," and simply bear the agony of listening to such unimpressive catastrophes as "We Are All on Drugs" and "Make Believe."

Could the boys, in their creative exploits, simply be pressed for time? The band didn't take up lodgings in the "city with big shoulders." Detroit and Toronto were next on the tour list.

"We don't ever really stay more than 18 hours in one place," Cuomo said, before turning to a crowd of expectant devotees and declining a fan's photo-op request with a weary and melancholy "no," while the cleanup crew swept the trash and chairs away from the lit ballroom floor below, re-bestowing upon the appalling venue its awkward amalgam of architectural styles. Nostalgia has its advantages, but only originality will prevent Weezer from becoming like the Aragon—an inelegant relic that's quirky and fun, but not much else.