Weezer + Pixies @ Bell Centre – 13th March 2019

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Weezer at Montreal Bell Centre

When I was still living back in England, I used to be green with envy at the co-headline tours that rolled around North America.  2 massive bands, playing full sets on the same night?!  What a prospect.  Even after more than 11 years living here, the novelty hasn’t worn off.  Between them, Weezer and Pixies have a few decades of experience, so you know a co-headline show of those two is gonna be good.

Pixies at Montreal Bell Centre

One thing about shows like this, though; you gotta be in your seat early!  The house lights drop at exactly 7.45pm, and the iconic Pixies enter the stage in dim light.  Drums start to hammer out the unmistakable intro of Gouge Away, extended in somewhat menacing manner as eerie green lights illuminate the stage a little more, before suddenly a spotlight appears on frontman Black Francis right as he growls the opening “Gouge Away / You can gouge away / stay all day / if you want to.”  Spotlights soon appear on the rest of the band as they lead up to the frantic chorus.  Without a break, the song merges seamlessly into the thumping bass intro of the classic Debaser. 

The set fluctuates between two extremes: obviously, the popular songs that everyone knows are at one end of the spectrum.  Gigantic was featured on a TV commercial not so long ago (which was weird to hear…), and gets a huge response, with bassist Paz Lenchantin covering admirably for the long-departed Kim Deal.  The harmonies she provides on the wonderful Monkey Gone To Heaven are perfect too.  For each radio-friendly popular song they play, they seem to compensate for by playing a more abrasive deep cut.  I’ve Been Tired is the perfect example, with its weird narrative of a guy describing his unusual fears probably shocking the younger Weezer fans in the 9000-strong crowd.  Still, things always get back on track pretty quickly after these detours, so as not to alienate anyone.

The timeless Here Comes Your Man and Where Is My Mind follow in succession towards the end of the set, seeing cell phones take to the skies, used either as recording devices or faux-lighters to add to the euphoria, making the Bell Centre suddenly feel like a stadium.  Guitarist Joey Santiago has some fun on Vamos, striking his guitar strings with his hat for a while, before unplugging his guitar altogether, teasing the lead close to the socket to summon waves of feedback to accentuate the mood of the song.  A cover of Winterlong by Neil Young wraps up the set after 70 minutes to huge applause, as the band huddle, bow, wave and leave the stage, in what constitutes their only interaction with the crowd of the entire set.

Whereas Pixies cut a serious presence throughout their set, any notion that Weezer might follow suit are dashed the instant the house lights go down.  Assembling in the photo pit in front of the stage dressed as a barbershop quartet, the band run through an abbreviated acapella version of Buddy Holly, much to the amusement of the crowd, who both cheer and laugh in equal measure.  The area goes dark again as the band dashes behind the big black curtain that surrounds the stage for a few moments, before the curtain drops to the unmistakable intro riff of the classic My Name Is Jonas, revealing the band back in regular attire.  Rivers Cuomo sports a pink tie-dye sweatshirt, while bassist Scott Shriner looks EXACTLY like Roger Daltrey these days.  Guitarist Brian Bell and Drummer Patrick Wilson haven’t changed a bit, though.

With such a deep back catalogue, the set is full of forgotten gems that you probably forgot about; a prime example is (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, from the 2009 Raditude record.  10 years ago, it was all over the radio, and I remember dancing to it with my friends from New York on a warm summer night at Osheaga in 2010 during their headline set.  And I had forgotten all about it!  It’s one of many “OH-YEAH-THIS-SONG!” moments throughout the show.

Right after that, Rivers asks “Canada, are you ready for some Weezer?!  We’re gonna take you all the way to Africa!”  With that, they bust into their recent cover of the Toto classic, and it’s staggering how many phones are whipped out around the place to film it.  What started out as a tongue-in-cheek cover seems to have struck a chord with so many people; indeed, the band ended up making an entire record of covers as a result of its popularity!  What’s more, that record (the ‘Teal’ album) gets much more coverage tonight than their recent record of original material (the ‘Black’ album).  And it certainly contributes to the party atmosphere; any non-Weezer fans (if such a thing exists?!) dragged to the show by their significant others will still recognize a handful of tunes.  It’s a masterstroke, really.

After the timeless Island In The Sun and Undone – The Sweater Song take us back to the glorious early days once more, Rivers adds to the trip down memory lane with a series of throwback questions that elicit roars from the crowd: ”Remember VCRs?  Remember Myspace?  Remember your Top 8?  Remember when the Internet was fun? ”  After this flurry of nerd references, the oft-forgotten nerd anthem Pork and Beans tears the house down.  The amazing 1996 sophomore record Pinkerton gets consecutive representation in the form of No Other One (the first time it has been aired this tour, and the first time I have seen it played live!) and the hilarious El Scorcho, with Rivers adjusting the second verse to proclaim “I asked you to go to the Pixies concert / you said you never heard of them!“, the only time all evening that either band acknowledges each other.

After a euphoric In The Garage and the tour debut of new song Living in L.A. (as mentioned, the only offering from the new ‘Black’ album, but which slots into the set seamlessly), Rivers climbs into a rowboat (on wheels), and ‘rows’ down a side aisle on the floor (i.e. pushed by roadies) to the back of the arena with just an acoustic guitar and a mic, while the rest of the band fire T-shirts into the crowd.  After an acoustic Surf Wax America gets a huge singalong, he starts rowing back, before shouting “hey stop this boat, I wanna do one more, one that I’ve never done in public!”  A cover of Stand by Me by Ben E. King incites yet another deafening singalong around the arena.  Rivers is clearly moved by the reception, effusing afterwards “I love you guys!” before rowing back to the main stage, playing air guitar with his oar while the band play Up The Beach by Jane’s Addiction (I think…).

Upon returning to the stage, they roll out 2005’s Beverly Hills and Rivers channels his inner 80s rock star as he tears through the guitar solo before the song closes with an explosion of fireworks.  Another fun cover, this time being Take On Me by A-Ha (replacing the electronic beats with guitar riffs), is swiftly followed by Perfect Situation, with Rivers inciting a huge singalong during the “OH, OHHHH!” outro, stirring up responses with “et vous!!” and “encore unefois!”  At its completion, he steps to a portion of the stage that juts into the crowd, with 2 spotlights on him, and lays into the distinctive riff of the perfect Say It Ain’t So, drawing the most deafening singalong from the crowd yet.  Flames erupt around the stage, with sparks dripping from the huge Weezer sign above the stage, and continue to do so when they wrap up the main set with a ferocious Hash Pipe.

After the band return to the stage, Rivers introduces the final cover of the night: “this is a song by The Turtles called Happy Together, about how I feel right now!”  It dips briefly (and seamlessly) into Longview by Green Day for a verse, before heading back to Happy Together to conclude.  A normal rendition of Buddy Holly triumphantly closes out the show for good, with Rivers allowing the crowd to sing the whole second chorus.  As Brian’s trademark guitar riff at the end of the solo cuts through the air, cannons of streamers explode from the four corners of the floor section, covering everyone and bringing tonight’s carnival to a close after 80 stellar minutes. 

That night, I actually struggle to fall asleep, thinking about how phenomenal the show was.  Having listened to Weezer for so many years, it was as much a trip down memory lane for me and my life as it was a trip through Weezer’s discography.  I found myself associating different songs with different stages of my life from the mid-90s to today, and many who came to the show with me felt exactly the same.  Indeed, Albert Einstein once wrote: “I see my life in terms of music.

Albert and I are on the same page then.

Setlist

1.       Buddy Holly (Barbershop Version)

2.       My Name Is Jonas
3.       (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
4.       Africa (Toto cover)
5.       Island In The Sun
6.       Undone – The Sweater Song
7.       Pork And Beans
8.       No Other One (Tour Debut)
9.       El Scorcho
10.   In The Garage
11.   Living in L.A. (Tour Debut)
12.   Surf Wax America (Rivers acoustic)
13.   Stand By Me (Ben E. King cover) (Rivers acoustic; Live Debut)
14.   Up The Beach (Jane’s Addiction cover)
15.   Beverly Hills
16.   Take On Me (a‐ha cover)
17.   Perfect Situation
18.   Say It Ain’t So
19. Hash Pipe

Encore

20.   Happy Together (The Turtles cover) (with a snippet of “Longview” by Green Day)
21.   Buddy Holly

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Eric Brisson

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