Photos by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
Twenty-five years ago, a band that deliberately named itself Weezer helped rescue self-indulgent no-fucks-given arena rock from the grungy abyss of dejected disaffection that devoured the early ‘90s. In an era where Ed Vedder’s yarling angst and Kurt Cobain’s anthems for the apathetic were the prevailing aesthetic markers, Weezer again reminded us music didn’t always need a movement, and that the message didn’t need to be heavy for the guitars to be. If Soundgarden and Mudhoney reclaimed the hair from hair metal, and Beck made it cool to be a loser — Rivers Cuomo was there to put the joy back. And make the world safe for the embattled dork inside all of us.
A quarter century later, Cuomo looks and sounds none the worse for wear. In fact you wouldn’t have known on Wednesday night that it wasn’t 1993 again, as Cuomo posed rock-heroic at the edge of the stage, shredding solos on his sea-green stratocaster in his iconic thick-rimmed Clark Kent spectacles. It should come as no surprise for a tunesmith who’s been known to freely admit to writing for the radio that Wednesday night’s setlist wouldn’t be drawn up by a band balancing their catalog’s best-beloved with a healthy offering of later cuts. This was no quietly defiant demonstration against the human jukebox, no time to offer a captive sounding board some new material — no, this was an unrepentant victory lap, and it was glorious.
From the first distorted tones of “Buddy Holly” through a tale of a whale, Cuomo and co. unraveled sweaters and took The Met to “Beverly Hills” and all the way back to “The Good Life.” And throwing in covers of everything from Turtles to Toto to “Take On Me,” snippets of Green Day, Sabbath and Nirvana and two takes of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” for good measure, they still manage — even in Philly’s fancy new “opera house” setting — to make a crowd feel like they stopped by at an old friend’s house to watch one of the greatest, longest-lasting garage bands of all time at some casual rehearsal, still at the top of their game, and still having too much fun. And yes, all the girls still look like Mary Tyler Moore. — JOSH PELTA-HELLER