When a concert exceeds your expectations, it's a fantastic feeling that you carry with you well into the next week, long after the show has concluded and those bands are more than likely halfway across the country. But in today's day and age, when a rock show exceeds your expectations, it's easy to assume that the impression will stay with you until at least the end of the year. Rock is a genre that is struggling right now within the mainstream, and while a plethora of tours are on the road this summer giving it their all, Weezer and Pixies co-headliner is one of the defining shows of this summer, maybe even of this year. The tour stopped in Mountain View, CA yesterday evening at Shoreline Amphitheatre, and Bay Area fans played witness to a show that was all about having fun.
An opening set was provided by Sleigh Bells, a unique noise pop duo comprised of vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Edward Miller. Legitimately armed with only two guitars (a touring member was added to fill out the live sound) and a vocalist, the duo brought a strobe-light filled thirty-minute set filled with electronic backing beats, crunching guitar-driven choruses, and powerful vocals. Krauss is an excellent front-woman and seemed to make an impression on the excited crowd as she and Miller powered through track after track.
The Pixies took the stage just as the sun had set behind the amphitheater, and proved why they are still a force to be reckoned with in the alternative rock world. The four members (lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Black Francis, lead guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Paz Lenchantin, and drummer David Lovering) played through their hour-long, twenty-one song set with incredible musicianship, barely stopping to take a breath in between songs. Their set list was heavily comprised of material from their 1989 album Doolittle, while also offering a number of selections from album's like 1988's Surfer Rosa, their debut 1987 EP Come On Pilgrim, and their newest offering from 2016, Head Carrier. With an impeccable live sound and a diverse catalogue of songs, its clear to see why Pixies have been reigning among the genre for so long.
After Pixies played, I started to understand the pairing of Weezer on this particular tour. While both bands are dominant in the category of alternative rock, they've both mastered a different style of the genre. But this is a tour built around two bands who have albums upon albums of material, have been in the game for a long time, and know how to put on a show. The perfect pairing, quite literally.
When it came time for Weezer's set, a black curtain dropped from the front of the stage to reveal the band standing on a recreated set of their music video for "Buddy Holly", as they powered through the song itself. They followed up with "Beverly Hills", "Pork and Beans" and "Hash Pipe", and not a single person in that amphitheater wasn't singing the words. It's rather impressive how many songs Weezer have that have permeated mainstream pop culture, but you don't fully realize it until you're at one of their shows, hearing hit after hit make its way out of the speakers.
Before "My Name Is Jonas" was performed, the walls constructing the band's stage setting lifted up and rotated, turning it into the band's "garage practice space", adorned with KISS and AC/DC band posters on the walls. "El Scorcho", "In The Garage", and even a cover of The Turtles' "Happy Together" (which crazily led into a cover of Green Day's "Longview") were performed. Vocalist/guitarist Rivers Cuomo suddenly ran up the side of the amphitheatre, dressed with a sailor hat and jacket, as he climbed onto a portable stage shaped like a tugboat and "sailed" through the crowd to perform an acoustic set up in the cheap seats. "Island In The Sun" was the first acoustic offering, making for an incredible image of Cuomo surrounded by thousands of cell phone lights that lit up the evening crowd. The second came in the form of a cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me", which worked surprisingly well.
Cuomo returned to the stage to join fellow bandmates Brian Bell (rhythm guitar), Patrick Wilson (drums), and Scott Shriner (bass) to perform two pyro-filled renditions (yes, there was pyrotechnics at a Weezer show) of "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" and "Feels Like Summer". Their highly-anticipated performance of Toto's "Africa" was met with thunderous applause, with the band returning to the stage shortly after for an encore comprised of Blue Album classics "Surf Wax America" and "Say It Ain't So" (which also included an abridged yet powerful cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid"). During the final number, Cuomo just held the mic out during the chorus. Everyone sang back. They're a band that inspires sing-along moments so powerful that people could probably hear from miles away. And yet while they're at the point in their career where they could just fade out and ride out their success, they're constantly putting out new material. Weezer's live performance shows that they're in this for the long run, and this is easily one of the best tours of the summer.