Weezer’s Bonnaroo Set Draws a Mixed Reaction
The band's '90s hits get wild cheers from the crowd, but their newer songs fail to connect.
Nowadays, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo squanders the majority of his genius on KISS-lite arena riffs and regressive rhymes about malls and homies (see: 2009’s Raditude and the preceding two albums), but his musical prowess isn’t dead; it’s just dormant.
Cuomo has jumped deeply down the rabbit hole of his current endeavor, which is to subvert the brilliant introspection of Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton albums (the crux of their fame) into a prosaic second adolescence. Unfortunately, he hasn’t entirely mastered how to become a frantic frontman and also an agile musician.
During Saturday’s dusktime set at Bonnaroo, he climbed the scaffolding and leapt in scissor-kicks during The Red Album’s “Troublemaker,” but the theatrics caused him to trail his bandmates’ pace by half a count and never fully catch up. Audience response was indifferent. Cuomo just turned 40, and his longtime fans are clearly losing patience for his deliberate immaturity.
But Weezer is a tight and efficient ensemble, as this set proved. They landed almost all their songs with effortless technique, but the cultish mid-’90s anthems were the only ones to invigorate the crowd. The screams for “Say It Ain’t So” and “Undone (the Sweater Song)” (off the Blue Album) were startling in their vigor; the fatalistic “Why Bother” (off Pinkerton) was an unusual live rarity and voraciously appreciated.
The new Raditude bits fared worse. “Can’t Stop Partying,” a solipsistic ode to vodka and clubbin’, dropped like an anvil into the mid-set stretch. But it gave Cuomo a chance to relax with the Evil Knievel stunts — he’d been dancing like a dervish and fully employing the trampoline — and also try a little hip-hop, as he faithfully repeated the rap interlude of the very indisposed Lil’ Wayne. It was a tepid attempt, though, bolstered by the fact that Cuomo didn’t seem at all engaged in its delivery.
A few memorable moments followed: Bassist Scott Shriner sang Maladroit’s “Dope Nose” like a pop-punk operetta, and the disclosure that guitarist Brian Bell hails from Knoxville elicited vast hometown roars.
Weezer then capped their lunacy as they did on their 2009 tour: with sprightly covers of MGMT’s “Kids” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” The latter was crooned by Cuomo in an outrageous blonde wig — an accessory presented without comment, as much of his motives should be these days.
But that man can leap off a trampoline, no fooling.