All that was missing were the home movies.
The opening weekend of Weezer’s three-city “Memories” tour felt like an audio/visual scrapbook that hosts Rivers Cuomo and his bandmates were just as giddy about sharing as the capacity crowds at Los Angeles’ Gibson Amphitheatre were about receiving.
Exquisitely crunchy and deliriously euphoric, Weezer started each night with a 10-song set of favorites, in reverse chronological order, and followed them with front-to-back renditions of their first two albums — 1994’s hit-laden debut (“The Blue Album”) on Friday, and 1996’s reviled-then-revered Pinkerton on Saturday. Between sets, longtime band aide Karl Koch narrated a slideshow of old photos, flyers and Weezer ephemera.
The shows were undeniably a triumph for band that blasted into the mainstream as endearingly clumsy outsiders who started “In the Garage” amid their games and KISS posters and rode their neuroses all the way to rock-radio stardom. Cuomo’s manic forays into the crowd each night seemed to shout “Nerds win! Nerds win!” with each high-five he collected, and there were plenty.
The hometown crowd no doubt had as many “Memories” as Cuomo, guitarist Brian Bell, bassist Scott Shriner, and drummer Patrick Wilson, who were joined during the opening sets by drummer Josh Freese (while Wilson moved to guitar). Before and after, the Gibson lobby buzzed with anecdotes from those who witnessed shows at long-ago L.A. nightspots Club Dump and Club Lingerie, or who remembered Weezer toiling at this very venue 15 years ago with Teenage Fanclub and That Dog.
Cuomo let the songs do the storytelling, introducing each number in the opening sets by simply iterating the year and the name of the album. He bounced on and off a small trampoline stationed in front of the drum kit, showered the crowd with water and rolls of toilet paper, and by the third song, “Troublemaker,” he was on a mad dash around the big room, singing from the aisles and atop seats.
Only a couple of non sequitur cameo appearances detracted from the friends-and-family vibe. Lost star Jorge Garcia (the cover boy of Weezer’s recent album Hurley) sang on “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” on Friday and on “Perfect Situation” on Saturday. And each night featured a Cuomo duet with Bethany Cosentino of indie darlings Best Coast (the shows’ opening act) on a half-acoustic “Island in the Sun.”
Beyond those, however, the opening sets boasted muscular renditions of hits such as “Pork and Beans,” “Photograph,” “Hash Pipe,” and “Keep Fishin'” as well as detours into the dustier corners of the Weezer catalog for two B-sides that ended up in movie soundtracks, “You Gave Your Love Softly” (Angus) and “Susanne” (Mallrats).
But for the album portions of the show, Cuomo was all business. Dispensing with his glasses and striped shirts at intermission, the 40-year-old frontman turned axe-slinger as the band took on the irreproachable “Blue Album,” a disc that, song for song, rivals most bands’ greatest-hits compilation. The Gibson crowd could hardly have hoped for a more true-blue execution — every hook, every ounce of vulnerability and every wry nod to Weezer’s forebears have long been sewn into modern rock’s fabric.
The second night’s Pinkerton, recently reborn as a deluxe edition, also served as cause for jubilation, though for different reasons. The dark, girl-obsessed album was initially panned upon its release, only to be widely regarded as a classic in later years. So while Weezer nation pumped its fists in I-told-you-so fury to songs like “The Good Life,” “El Scorcho” and “Pink Triangle,” Cuomo played the album’s scratchy licks and delivered its edgy lyrics in I-hoped-you’d-see-it-my-way fashion.
At the end, during the acoustic ballad “Butterfly,” the huge doors behind the stage slid open to reveal the hillside beyond. As the cold, damp air rushed in, Cuomo finished the song, standing virtually still. He’d been joined by Bell, Shriner and Wilson for a four-man bow to a rousing ovation the evening prior. But on Night 2 he stood alone and stared almost stone-faced at the thunderous applause that sent him off — a rock star, now, witnessing the late-arriving validation of the misfit he was then.
I Want You To
Pork and Beans
Island in the Sun
Falling for You
“The Blue Album“: My Name is Jonas; No One Else; The World Has Turned and Left Me Here; Buddy Holly; Undone The Sweater Song; Surf Wax America; Say It Ain’t So; In the Garage; Holiday; Only in Dreams
Pork and Beans
The Greatest Man That Ever Lived
Island in the Sun
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Only In Dreams
Pinkerton: Tired of Sex; Getchoo; No Other One; Why Bother?; Across the Sea; The Good Life; El Scorcho; Pink Triangle; Falling for You; Butterfly