On Saturday night I spent my evening in Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom ready to finally see one of my favorite bands, Weezer. By my count I had been screwed out of seeing them around three times by now. I remember hearing the announcement that Weezer was going to play both the Blue album and Pinkerton live. While I sat and waited for their to be dates near me I shook in eager anticipation. When it was finally announced that they would be in Chicago in early January I became incredibly excited. It was in the sweet spot of my winter break, so I didn’t have to worry about classes. I skipped my morning class on the day the pre-sale started and got my ticket for the second night, where they would perform Pinkerton. I told myself I would try to get a ticket for the first night closer to the show, but alas, it was sold out and unreasonable prices by scalpers would prevent me from going to it.
By the time I got home in late December I knew the show was approaching, and I would soon be witnessing a once in a lifetime opportunity show, pending I wouldn’t go to another date. I called up my friend to ask her if she had bought her ticket for the night like she said she would, and of course, she failed to. Now I’ve gone to shows alone before, but mostly small local ones. I was slightly disappointed by the thought of driving to Chicago to see a show by myself with no one to talk about it with. When my mom found out I was going to the show by myself she was rather apprehensive to let me go by myself, telling me that my dad was going to have to come with. I responded to her with the fact that it was sold out and I was perfectly capable of getting their myself, not to mention my dad isn’t exactly crazy about Pinkerton.
Finally January 8th came, and I loaded up my car’s cd player with Weezer, as well as the soundtrack of Dazed and Confused which was a nice start to the long drive. I made a mix-cd of my favorite songs of theirs, which had six songs from Pinkerton, throughout their time as a band. I cruised down I-90 singing along to songs like Susanne, Say It Ain’t So, Superfriend, No One Else, and Keep Fishin’, to name a few. I got odd looks from the people working in the toll booths the entire time, but I’m sure it gave them some minor enjoyment.
I got to Chicago, fittingly at the orgasmic climax of Only in Dreams, at 6:30ish when doors were opening. I wasn’t too worried about getting their to get a good spot seeing as I didn’t have much more of a drive ahead of me. Unfortunately I made it to Lawrence and Broadway when the police had closed it off for some unknown reason. I began a half hour of driving around getting lost and driving the wrong way. By the time I got back to Lawrence the street was re-opened and I caved and paid the $20 to park in their lot so I could wait for everyone else to leave, seeing as I got parked in.
I walked down the alley and across the street, after having numerous scalpers ask me if I needed a ticket, and got through security, which included a rather handsy pat-down, and headed right upstairs, not bothering to look at merch that I didn’t have money for, and was instantly assaulted by the ear-achingly terrible so-called music of the Limousines. I couldn’t make out a single word the “singer” “sung” besides “rock ‘n roll” and “soul.” The crowd showed little enthusiasm towards them and they walked off the stage to the excitement of the audience. I found myself situated near the center-back of the room a bit behind the soundboard. I made some effort to work my way forward but made very little progress. For the next half-hour or so I looked around the area around me in anticipation. I noticed longtime friend of the band, and webmaster, Karl Koch had set up a video-camera looking at the stage for the show, which makes me optimistic that there will be a professional dvd released at some point.
Finally the lights were turned off and Weezer took the stage. Weezer proceeded to move backwards through their catalog, in a time machine way. They started up with the one song I have heard off of Hurley, Memories. It seemed like the only person who was into it at this point was the guy in his early-30s with a backwards baseball hat and was jumping up and down on his girlfriend/fiancee/wife and throwing up the “devil horns,” which I would suspect would be to the chagrin of Weezer around 1996, but seems oddly fitting in this day and age for them. They skipped over Raditude, a decision I was fine with, and played Pork and Beans from the Red album, an album I enjoy and saw as an attempt to return to their old ways. Rivers worked the stage and got Brian Bell to sing part of the song.
At the end of the song Rivers climbed up onto the drum riser and placed a cowboy hat on his head, I knew exactly what they were going to do next. They began The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, with a few jumps on his trampoline, and powered through it. Rivers Cuomo moved to the center of the stage and placed his microphone in its holder and picked up his guitar, a sight I was incredibly happy to see. The band played Perfect Situation, a song I see as the last great song that made it onto a Weezer album. Filled with the sweet swelling guitar solo that made me fall in love with their music it felt great finally hearing it live. Rivers kept his guitar on and introduced Scott, who proceeded to sing Dope Nose. It wasn’t Rivers, but still pretty good. Rivers set his guitar and the band played Hash Pipe.
At the end of Hash Pipe the crowd roared in excitement at the fact Weezer was about to launch into the golden period of their output, the 90s. You Gave Your Love to Me Softly was played with blistering intensity followed by Susanne, a favorite of mine, and the rarely played Jamie. Knowing that something special was about to happen the crowd hung on waiting for Rivers to shout out “1994, the Blue album.” Right after the bass-line that has haunted me since I first heard it when I was 11 began. Only in Dreams was the only fitting way to close the non-Pinkerton set.
Some hardcore fans will argue that playing this song was blasphemous and Scott Shriner is not at all qualified to handle the Godlike bass-line that is the trademark of Only in Dreams. I however felt he did the song absolute justice, and encourage Weezer to continue to play the song live, only lets get Pat back on the drums for it, please?
Anyways, the band left the stage and after a few minutes of inactivity a keyboard was brought out on stage. At this point a guy in his early-30s began talking to me, beginning with how he wished that he could still smoke in there. We had a casual conversation about smoking, don’t smoke personally but I’m not gonna tell anyone to put it out. We went on to talk about Weezer, the guy had seen them quite a few times in his years, including back during the original tour for Pinkerton.
Eventually some kids from the local “School of Rock” came in and did covers of Surf Wax America and Say It Ain’t So. Both were done well, although it was odd to see a 13 year old sing Say It Ain’t So. A few minutes after they finished Karl stepped up on stage and greeted the crowd enthusiastically. Needless to say, I’m an avid reader of Karl’s Korner, not to mention he has every recording Weezer has ever done, so I was ready for his comments. He launched a slide show filled with classic Weezer. Old fliers, random snapshots, and the Rolling Stone article that named Pinkerton the second worst album of 1996, behind Bush’s “Razorblade Suitcase,” which Karl deemed as a fair title for Bush. This lasted about seven minutes or so and the crowd was left to wait for what they came for, the masterpiece that is Pinkerton.
Weezer reemerged on the stage, sans-Josh Freese, having changed clothes. In that first second I witnessed Rivers standing awkwardly, without his signature horn-rimmed glasses, his white Gibson SG with that great lightning bolt strap over his shoulder. It was a moment that I believe any Weezer fan would die to see. Slowly the anticipation built with the sound of feedback and Weezer launched into the angst-filled opener Tired of Sex. They slowly worked their way through the album, the crowd erupting in joy after every song while singing along with Cuomo’s tales of heartbreak and alienation.
After the emotional roller coaster that lies in Pink Triangle, Pat hopped down off the drum riser to be replaced by Freese and picked up his guitar. Rivers slowly put down his guitar and stiffly moved towards the microphone. I felt slightly let down by the fact that Rivers put down his guitar and Josh Freese sat in on drums for Falling For You initially, but I couldn’t help but be swept up by the heartbreakingly beautiful song. It felt like the first time I heard it all over again.
To finish the set Pat returned to the drum riser to drum the small part that is on Butterfly, and Rivers sang with true melancholy and regret. At the end he raised his guitar above his head and held it there. He basked in the roaring ovation of the sea of fans who had seen the crown jewel of Weezer. He set the guitar down on the ground, bowed and waved to the crowd, and then walked off stage.
The lights came on and the crowd began to slowly move towards the stairs to the lobby in a mix of euphoric joy and sadness. It was at that moment that I realized I would probably never see anything of this magnitude and significance to me again. I worked my way out of the building into the bitter Chicago night and made my way across the street and down the alley to the lot where I parked. After spending ten minutes waiting to be able to get out of the lot and blasting my copy of Pinkerton deluxe and made my way down Lawrence back to I-90. The next three hours were spent singing along, making my voice even more hoarse, at the top if my lungs to Weezer through the late night.