Photo by MATT SHAVER
I have no control over the Spotify playlist when cruising the highways and byways with my wee men, and while I am afforded at least one or two selections over a 40-minute span, the majority of my time behind the wheel is scored by the likes of Drake, Post Malone and Logic. Yet the most inexplicable queue add of late was Toto’s “Africa,” which only after a cursory screen-face peek revealed itself to be a Weezer cover. From 2018. If you read the backstory on why THAT cover, it all but underlines the band’s enduring appeal. They give the kids exactly what they want.
Yet when the band opens a set with what one identifies as their biggest hits, it’s hard to gauge whether you’ve gotten your fill some 30 minutes in. The shadow of their “Blue” album weighs heavy on those who haven’t maintained a rhythm with the band’s output since their “Green”, but based on the youthful crowd at the BB&T Pavilion on Saturday night, this is a minority view. The further Rivers Cuomo and company strayed from their perceived roots, the more impassioned the capacity crowd got. Pouring rain be damned.
Weezer are one of but a handful of ’90s outfits who actually managed to strengthen their arena rock headlining cred between Gens X and Y, and Camden was filled to the brim with millennials only a decade-plus away from their high school hallways – where the strains of “Beverly Hills,” “Half Pipe” and “Pork & Beans” were insecurity boosting benchmarks, not unlike a prior decade’s collegiate daydreamers, whose spliff rolls were scored by “Undone” and “El Scorcho.” The mid-catalog soft rock pull of an “Islands in the Sun” perfectly encapsulates Weezer’s enduring appeal; they were always easy-to-swallow pop stars without the boy band looks, with heavy leans on enduring “simpler time” harmonies – which is why they can slide in multi-generational covers with ease. They laced their set with everything from The Turtles “Happy Together” to A-Ha’s “Take On Me” to the aforementioned “Africa,” all to the total adoration of an audience who finds escapism in karaoke. Populist jams, hence the sweaters.
Historically, Weezer has been WAY more successful than every other band who maximized the groundwork laid by The Pixies. Some 25 years on, the formula is now more than apparent – those bands that embraced Black Francis’ artsy menace are now mere footnotes against those who leaned more heavily on the pop perfection of their loud-quiet-loud dynamics. In their current live incarnation, the band can still snarl through a perfect rendition of “Gouge Away” and then illuminate the room with the perfect harmonies of “Here Comes Your Man,” but there is no denying two obvious truths – their new material sticks out like a sore thumb against their legendary catalog, and that legendary catalog NEEDS Kim Deal to make the prophetic strains of their heyday complete. To see them even with someone as accomplished as Paz Lenchantin on bass is like having an affair on the love of your life.
In a perfect world, Sleigh Bells would’ve played to at least, say, even a half-packed house. More so than Weezer, the three-piece taps into what made the Pixies tick with a sexy abandon. It’s what the twenty-somethings of 1994 envisioned as “the future” – the sound of what we thought would sell out arenas and keep the world on its toes. Alas, pop won. It always wins. Bless the rains down in Camden. — JAMES DOOLITTLE
Photo by MATT SHAVER