Weezer Arouses Mass Catharsis With Pinkerton at Nob Hill Masonic Center

Categories: Last Night
Christopher Victorio
Weezer's Rivers Cuomo sure loved to walk up the aisles last night at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.
November 30, 2010
@ The Nob Hill Masonic Center

Better than: Singing along to every song on Pinkerton with a car full of your friends on a long road trip -- but only barely.

Alright, Rivers Cuomo and Weezer. You win this one.

Even though you sounded like crap playing the first half of Pinkerton -- your best album, and maybe one of The Best Albums -- last night at the overly posh Nob Hill Masonic Center. Even though you slurred through "Tired of Sex" and "Getchoo." Even though you seemed to hold this immensely fragile, wholly embarrassing, piercingly confessional, hideously honest document of late-stage male adolescence -- this fucking masterpiece -- at arm's length. Even though you didn't say a word through all 10 songs of it. 

You still won us over. You still had the whole room singing along, every single word, for about an hour (it felt like 10 minutes). You played Pinkerton entirely: some parts better than others, sure, but at least you got it out there, blasted out those squirmy songs, coughed up those awful words, muddled through those ridiculous guitar solos. You gave us the catharsis longtime Weezer fans have wanted for years.

Christopher Victorio
But what last night's concert (the second of two S.F. dates on Weezer's Memories tour; Monday saw the band performing its self-titled debut "blue" album) really proved is that Pinkerton, the perfect album, the diary of masculine libido and boyish insecurity and rockstar arrogance, exists most purely as a record. Though it felt revelatory to see Rivers Cuomo embrace the sophomore album he ignored or claimed to hate through much of the band's career, last night's show only approximated the heinous glory of Pinkerton; it didn't capture it.

At the start of Pinkerton opener "Tired of Sex," Cuomo's voice sounded frayed, as if he'd worn himself out in the first half of the show, where Weezer played 10 of its greatest hits, from this year's "Memories" all the way through the blue album's "Only In Dreams." The band's timing was off, and drummer Pat Wilson never shot for the positively furious fills he laid down in the studio, a key backdrop for Cuomo's angsty lyrical pleas. Messy sound spoiled the opening moments of the song, in which a deep, grizzled bass figure stretches out over a splattery drum pattern. The guitars of Cuomo and Brian Bell boiled over, burning up the nuance of the song. 

"Getchoo" fared little better musically, but Cuomo carried it with more passionate vocals. Still, it felt like Rivers and Co. were holding back, as if going all the way into Pinkerton was either frightening, or impossible now, more than decade after it was released. The fact that the band didn't say a single word between its songs could have been a way to give the crowd a seamless album performance, but it also supplied an impression that the guys just wanted to get through the album as quickly as possible.

Christopher Victorio
By the awesome middle stretch of the record, Weezer's sound had mostly cleared up. We couldn't hear the precious piano elements of "Across the Sea" too well, but it didn't matter -- this fantasy about a Japanese female fan is the creepy centerpiece of the album, and the room was entirely lost in the tension of its desirous lyrics. When the brutally basic climax came ("why are you so far away from me?"), it seemed like Weezer was at last truly inhabiting its songs.

After the opening set and slideshow, Rivers changed from a flannel shirt and maroon track jacket into a white tucked-in dress shirt and tan slacks for Pinkerton, making him look even more like a dorky professor and upping the creep factor on "Across The Sea" considerably. His garb perfectly suited "The Good Life," too, and Cuomo's burgeoning bald spot and wedding ring made us wonder how he feels about his playboy days now that he's, like, grown up and stuff.

Christopher Victorio
"El Scorcho" came off fantastic -- at this point, we will just assume you remember that almost every single person was singing along -- but "Pink Triangle" was, without a doubt, the highlight of the night. By then Weezer sounded utterly clear, and the song's lines about crushing on a girl only to find that she's into girls are among the best in the band's catalog.

From there things ended all too quickly. Cuomo freed himself from the guitar on "Falling For You," jumped around the stage, and howled into his wireless mic for the album set's most convincing three minutes. (Guess even nowadays it's not too hard for him to deal with a straightforward, "I want you" kind of song.) 

The other band members wordlessly left the stage for "Butterfly," leaving Cuomo alone to pluck gorgeous notes on an acoustic. "I ain't never coming back," he sang at the song's, and the album's, close. "I'm sorry." Those words served as a reminder: Weezer only chased after the allure of Pinkerton last night, but its flawed set supplied a torrent of cathartic joy. If the band never comes back to the stage with these songs in this order, it can count this set as a victory, albeit one long in coming. No apologies necessary, Rivers.

Christopher Victorio
Critic's Notebook

The opener: Arrived halfway through the Limousines' set, and was pleasantly surprised by the emo-y electro-pop of this Bay Area band.

Christopher Victorio
The Limousines
Weezer's Greatest hits set highlights: "Pork and Beans" straight-up ruled, but I was thankful for the choice of "Only In Dreams" as the sole blue album song. Weezer could have pleased more of the crowd with a hit like "Buddy Holly," but this long boiler was a thrill to watch live.

Painful moment: Realizing that Pinkerton is probably never going to sound as good in real life as it does on the record.

Personal bias: I've probably got the album memorized note-for-note.

Hey, nerds: A cardboard stand-up of Chewbacca from Star Wars overlooked the stage all night.

Christopher Victorio
Funny time: During the slideshow, the crowd was shown a page from a 1996 Rolling Stone that blasted Pinkerton as the second-worst album of the year, right behind Bush's Razorblade Suitcase.

Random notebook dump: Rivers has such a dorky smile.

Christopher Victorio
Christopher Victorio
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