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Double live Weezer!

| January 10, 2011

Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
January 7 and 8, 2011

Andy Argyrakis hit both Weezer shows this weekend: one in support of the band’s debut, the next starring Pinkerton. Both albums were played from front to back.
In the ‘90s, seemingly every geek (and more than a few jocks) loved Weezer, and even a decade-and-a-half later, they’re still showing up in sold-out droves. Though the band would’ve likely shifted the same amount of tickets on a traditional new album tour, everyone showed up drooling to hear “The Blue Album” and Pinkerton.
The debut was the guest of honor in Friday’s visit of the “Memories” tour, though prior to its undertaking the faithful were given a 10-track recap of the group’s commercial outpouring throughout the 2000s. “Memories,” off last year’s Hurley (Epitaph), was predictable though appropriate as it recapped the foursome’s journey while growing up in the spotlight, and also returned to an edgier sound compared to the last few glossier records.
Other fairly recent cuts, like “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)” and “Troublemaker,” served as sterling examples of the band being able to stay in the game, though “Beverly Hills” took the oversimplified formula too far and remains one of the group’s cheesiest sidesteps. Nonetheless, an acoustically begun “Island In the Sun” found frontman Rivers Cuomo strumming with confidence that would’ve eluded him back in the day, as the remaining players kicked up the amplification post-bridge to serve as a first-half highlight.
After an intermission, Weezer growled into gear with a revved up take on “My Name Is Jonas.” Though the group frequently performs it and at least four more standards from this disc, the real treats were the melodic chestnut “No One Else” and the gleefully grungy “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here.”
Sing-alongs broke out during airplay regulars like “Buddy Holly,” “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and “Say It Ain’t So,” all of which still sound superb, but lacked the special appeal of deeper cuts. “In The Garage” proved that point as it built up with distortion-laced pandemonium, followed by the retro-rockin’ “Holiday” (which could’ve truly been Buddy Holly in another life) and the escalating explosiveness of “Only In Dreams.” It may have been a brilliant marketing move in terms of selling tickets, but in the process, the two-hour evening was arguably Weezer’s best trip through town since the project’s original outing.

Lightning struck again Saturday night, but in a much different format as the group unfurled Pinkerton with all its unpolished attitude. Even if the disc was a commercial and critical disappointment at the time of its release, time and space has since transformed the disc into a cult classic.

For the casual fans, a shuffled-up singles set started off the second show, starting once again with “Memories,” merging with the intentionally goofy “Pork And Beans” and the grimy “Perfect Situation.” Just “Only In Dreams” survived from the previous evening, a nod to fans who paid admission both nights.
The contrast between the chipper “Blue Album” and its rougher follow-up was immediately apparent from the grouchy and screechy “Tired of Sex” and the militant “Getchoo” (although both left a sweet aftertaste). “Across The Sea” gave the group a chance to rock out and shift from sunny melodies to brooding guitar growls, though some relief from the bluster came during the collection’s closest purebred pop cut, “The Good Life.”
Deeper in, it was clear why it earned an initially timid reception, mainly because it was meant to be heard in its entirety rather than radio or MTV dissections. Fifteen years later, cuts like the bombastic “Falling For You” or the reflective acoustic closer “Butterfly” probably still won’t earn individual iTunes downloads, but they helped contribute to a band not being afraid to expand its artistic horizons. And even if some listeners got temporarily lost along the way, the dedicated ones have since come full circle and contributed to Weezer’s impressive endurance.
-Andy Argyrakis

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