Songs with giant hooks, loud riffs, and lyrics about awkward longing will never go out of style. Weezer has been one of the leading providers of such music for more than 20 years, netting at least three generations of young fans in the process. At the band’s rare Maine appearance at the Maine State Pier, the sold-out crowd proved this vitality, stretching beyond the venue’s gates into the parking area and nearby piers. And for a band that first hit the airwaves in 1994, the median age of attendees trended startlingly low.
These fans were rewarded with a set that spanned the band’s entire career, touching on all nine of their official albums, with the lone exception of 2010’s Hurley. There are very few post-grunge rock bands that can play a 90-minute set containing essentially nothing but hits – songs that you know, even if you forgot them or don’t know that you know them – and Weezer is one. They’re a singles band rather than an album band, and they’re an uncommon act that can uncork a stretch of muscular, iconic numbers that include “Dope Nose,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and “The Good Life,” and it may not even be the evening’s highlight.
There is a common perception among older fans that the band’s later material, particularly everything since 2002’s Maladroit, is discernibly worse than the band’s 1990s heyday. This is a false assumption – Cuomo’s songwriting has remained consistent throughout his career, both in quality and tone. What has changed (apart from those fans growing older) is his albums’ production, which has gotten glossier and more compressed, and can make the songs sound less appealing. The live setting, however, levels all eras of the band’s recordings. Even maligned late-period songs such as “Beverly Hills” and “Troublemaker” sounded of a part with classic material such as “Hash Pipe,” and received similar enthusiasm from the audience.
It was this enthusiasm that buoyed the whole experience. There was a clinical aspect to Cuomo’s on-stage approach, as if he were going through the rock-star poses to fulfill a job requirement (this could have been a projection on my part, as a scraggly beard obscured his facial expressions). This is no doubt part of the whole Weezer appeal, to appear standoffish even in front of your giant Van-Halen-inspired logo, and the fans played their part in making the night come alive. The crowd was frequently an ocean of raised fists, and they sang along to songs such as “El Scorcho” with such gusto that it nearly drowned the PA system out.
The one weak spot of the set was the material from their latest album, “Everything Will Be All Right in the End.” Weezer’s late-career work ages better than it sounds on arrival, and “Back to the Shack,” their biggest current single, is a misguided ode to rock snobbery – complete with a lame “disco sucks” joke – even if it ironically comes atop one of their more danceable rhythms. The song sounds like Weezer’s attempt to plant the flag of rock in a music landscape ruled by EDM, but they made a stronger case for the strength of guitar-bass-drum music with the performance itself, a communal experience that came across like Cheap Trick gigs might have in the disco era: catchy, compelling and highly rousing.
WHERE: Maine State Pier, Portland
REVIEWED: July 31