Live review: Weezer at Gibson Amphitheatre
Weezer’s 1996 album, “Pinkerton,” is the rare mainstream rock record about being a giant creep. Not in a lecherous Rolling Stones way, nor like Radiohead’s mopey early career. No, “Pinkerton” is the kind of record on which the band’s Rivers Cuomo seethes that a girl won’t reciprocate his love — for the totally unjustifiable reason that she’s a lesbian. It tapped a vein of Asian-female fetishizing among white male indie rockers — the thing is an emo album as an Orientalist fantasy featuring cellist girls who pen love letters on delicate stationery. Any woman who in real life encounters the flailing, vengeful passive-aggressive narrator behind songs such as “No Other One” should run screaming for the fire exits.
And yet. There might not be a more vivid example of the insecure male id in American music. “Pinkerton” is a torn nerve of an album that justifiably repelled casual fans upon its absolute bomb of a release and has deservedly been resurrected as one of the most discomfiting, honest and emotionally powerful records in rock. The band reprised “Pinkerton” on Saturday night at the Gibson Amphitheatre; 14 years after its release, it still drips with the lovelorn fury of a young man who has bared his soul to his audience — and his audience has reached for its pepper spray.
On Friday, Weezer performed its self-titled debut, known as “The Blue Album.” Its pleasures were never in dispute. “Blue” was immaculate fuzzy power pop that wore its influences like, well, an unraveling sweater — Buddy Holly, Cheap Trick, the Cars and a tasteful bit of guitar shredding.
“Pinkerton” was something else. From the first gain-fried bass notes of “Tired of Sex,” the album felt nasty in sound and spirit. That song’s chorus is a crude day-planner itinerary of girls Cuomo is sick of sleeping with. But just as quickly, he cops to being totally ashamed of himself and on his knees pleading for true love. It’s so ferociously catchy that the contradiction rings true — the sensitive singer succumbing to his lesser angels is also an arrogant cad wondering why it all feels empty.
It’s clear that “Pinkerton” is still a third rail for Cuomo, even as Weezer plays it on this dryly titled “Memories” tour. The first half of the band’s Saturday set (largely a collection of defiantly brainless hits from its more recent career) proves that Cuomo has pretty much just been having a laugh since 2001’s “Green Album.” He spent much of the first hour strolling in the aisles and cutting mock-Danzig poses while singing goofball tunes such as “Pork and Beans” and “Hash Pipe” — as “Lost” actor Jorge Garcia, the “Hurley” of Weezer’s latest album title, crooned from the side stage.
For “Pinkerton,” Cuomo spent the album’s 10 songs rigid in front of his microphone stand, still seemingly nervous to be detailing his kink for teenage Japanese fangirls on “Across the Sea” and being an “old goat” breaking rules about “hanging around with chicks like you” on “Falling for You.” If he were Mick Jagger, this would all be a dandyish lark, but Cuomo’s sweet-tempered persona makes his moments of sexual venom even darker.
During the solo acoustic closer “Butterfly,” just as Cuomo delivered a lyrical misogynist epithet made even more vicious and petty by the gentle song around it, the Gibson stage’s loading dock opened to show the band’s trailers and a Valley panorama behind them. It was stark and unexpected and made the room a little colder. But even Cuomo looked taken aback by the long, almost sympathetic ovation that followed. He’d been a creep in that song and others over the course of the night, maybe. But an honest one.
-- August Brown
Top photo: Frontman Rivers Cuomo leads the Los Angeles alternative rock band Weezer in a rousing opening set at the Gibson Amphitheatre. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
Middle photo: Rivers Cuomo. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Weezer drummer Patrick Wilson performs at the Gibson Amphitheatre. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times