“Say it ain’t so…”
From leaving work at 3:10 to arriving at Birmingham academy at around 7:10, I wasn’t excited. Not because I couldn’t wait to see my favourite band again after a seven year wait but because I was so worried about all the things that could go wrong. My anxiety about the possibility of delayed trains or arriving at the venue to find I had to stand at the back was palpable. Happily, everything ran smoothly and after taking up a spot about five rows back, my wife and I settled in for what promised to be an incredible night. We were not to be disappointed…
First up were Chicago rock band the Orwells. Having been a little underwhelmed by the band at Leeds festival earlier in the year, expectations weren’t super high, especially considering the band had pulled out of an in-store gig in Nottingham due to illness, only a day before. As it turns out, the band were in top form and played a barn storming and tight set. An extended version of ‘Double Feature’ sounded particularly brutal with Dominic Corso and Matt O’ Keefe attacking their guitars with vigour.
I’m not one to check setlists so my anxiety returned just before Weezer took to the stage. The last time I saw the band they relied heavily on covers and newer songs so it was a surprise when they opened up with Blue favourite ‘The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’. I have spent so much of my life listening to the Weezer that it almost felt unreal to have them stood yards away playing those same songs and it took a period of adjustment for me to fully immerse myself in the moment. By the time ‘The Good Life’ hit, the disconnect had been well and truly forgotten. I’ve never really seen Weezer play much off Pinkerton before as Rivers Cuomo was yet to align himself with the fan favourite on the two previous times I have caught them and that didn’t change too much here. Birmingham were treated to ‘El Scorcho’ off the second record and that is that. The sheer amount of songs played from Blue rendered this point moot however. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Weezer would play eight songs from their debut album. ‘No One Else’ still sounds explosive and fan favourite ‘In The Garage’ receives a wonderful reaction. ‘Surf Wax America’ completes the trilogy to have the audience in raptures and the Beach Boys style break down in the latter song is incredible.
2016’s White is probably the best Weezer album since Maladroit so ‘California Kids’ and ‘King of the World’ slot in effortlessly aside all the tracks from the first couple of albums. New album Pacific Daydream was released on the day of the gig but it is not until ten tracks in that the band played anything from it. Lead single ‘Feels Like Summer’ has been criticised in some quarters as being too poppy but the beefed up live version sounds massive and ‘Happy Hour’ is also well received by fans. That is all we get from the new album but even the staunchest fan would admit that they would prefer to hear the more familiar stuff, at least until we have time to become properly acquainted with the new album.
‘Thank God For Girls’ is surprisingly one of the set highlights as Rivers is given the opportunity to showcase his vocal delivery as he roams between rapping and crooning effortlessly and a triumphant ‘Pork and Beans’ rounds off a four song representation of the bands latter career.
From there the gig goes from being memorable to legendary. ‘The Sweater Song’ is so unique that it still sounds completely fresh over twenty years on and the crowd explodes with happiness as the song begins. A couple of songs from Green follow in the shape of ‘Island in the Sun’ and ‘Hash Pipe’. The latter is particularly special as crowd and band are driven to a frenzy by the insistent and hypnotic riff.
‘Beverly Hills’ is the one song from this set that I could do without but then, minds, voices and inhibitions are completely lost for the final two songs. I once wrote that if you have been drunk with me, you have heard ‘Say It Ain’t So’. The Blue album cut is still one of my all time favourite songs and it soars and conquers here as the build up to the glorious guitar solo and final chorus create a moment of anticipation that I wish I could capture and keep forever.
After such a Blue heavy night there is only one song that could round things off. ‘Buddy Holly’ brings the party like nothing else and the crowd don’t need confetti canons to dance, jump and sing along (but they do help). Upon leaving the venue I am so excited that I spend £40 on merch, there is perhaps no greater indictment of how good Weezer are than the fact that they persuaded me to part with some money…
I go and watch live music all the time but it is rare that you catch a show that you know will stay with you forever. It has been fifteen years since I first saw Weezer and seven years since the last time. I am pleased as punch to say that it was more than worth the wait. Quite possibly the best live performance I have ever seen.
The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
The Good Life
No One Else
In the Garage
Surf Wax America
My Name Is Jonas
King of the World
Thank God for Girls
Pork and Beans
A Ballad for the Fallen Soldier
Undone – The Sweater Song
I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Mike Posner cover)
Island in the Sun
Feels Like Summer
Say It Ain’t So