with Dashboard Confessional, Sparta, The Special Goodness, Home Town Hero, AM Radio, and Rooney

Hi-Fi Buys Ampitheatre, Atlanta, GA • July 29, 2002

The Weezer Summer Enlightenment Tour comes at a glorious time for Weezer and its fans. After singer Rivers Cuomo released songs on the band’s Web site and to radio stations for perusal prior to their latest album, Maladroit, trouble with the label left the band self-managed. Fans are happy because they feel closer to their favorite band, and Weezer is happy to have business and creative decisions in their own hands. This latest run around the country, with its cool special effects and superstar openers, was definitely a victory lap for the Weez.

Prior to the main show, a second stage was set up with The Special Goodness, (Weezer drummer Pat Wilson’s band), Home Town Hero, AM Radio, and Rooney. That’s a lot of bands for the buck! Unfortunately I arrived a little too late for my third time seeing Weezer, and missed the second stage action.

Also prior to the show on this tour, Weezer challenged fans to foosball tournaments. Local radio stations held contests to select three teams to battle Weezer before the show. From what I read, Team Weezer has been destroying the challengers. I think it=EDs a pretty cool idea.

Sparta took the main stage right on time, and considering how much of that band is At the Drive In, I held high expectations (hey, the comparisons are inevitable here). They didn’t let me down and tore through a short set. I thought they sort of sounded like At the Drive In on Novocaine — most of the same elements were there, like screaming guitars and the tight breakdowns, but Sparta is a lot less spastic and less prone to screaming. Unfortunately, Sparta did not get the reception from the audience I thought they deserved. The crowd made more noise when they spotted Karl, the infamous “fifth member of Weezer” who updates http://www.weezer.com, setting up his cameras before the show. It’s sort of pathetic when people want to be on weezer.com more than they care about a great rock band. Oh well.

Next came the MTV-bred phenom known as Dashboard Confessional. He took the stage with a full band and an electric guitar — a shock for me, as I remember seeing just him and his acoustic guitar playing at church youth groups! Chris Carraba has changed a lot since his success: the clothes are nicer and the smile cockier. He only played two or three songs from Swiss Army Romance, and only one of those was just him and his acoustic guitar. His high-pitched, whiny voice threatened to pierce my eardrums with all its pathetic, sad tales of lame-o high school romance gone wrong. During “Screaming Infidelities,” the big finale, the big hit song, the big sendoff, all the power in the ampitheatre went off. I found it hilarious because no one knew what to do! Carraba frantically looked around and stopped playing. It’s not like he needed the power anyway, seeing as every kid in the place was screaming, “Your hair is everywhere!” at the top of his or her lungs.

The Strokes were scheduled to play after the Dashboard debacle, but cancelled because singer Julian Casablancas was injured. Wimp. If he was a real rock star he’d be up there. From my prime viewing point up front, I thought I spotted a couple Strokes hanging around backstage, but it was never confirmed.

At precisely 9:30, the blazing sun finally decided to disappear for a bit and Weezer came out. Rivers lost the homeless mountain man look he had on the last tour (the tech vest and beard) for a way more flattering suit and sunglasses, thank God. “What’s up, peeps?” he said as he held his fist in the air — an action he repeated quite frequently throughout the course of the night. They played random improv stuff for a bit then launched into a tune that probably hasn’t any action for years until this tour: “Pink Triangle” off of Pinkerton.

I could’ve used some of whatever Rivers was smoking, because he talked more during the first two songs than I heard him talk during the last two tours. “Howdy, y’all. It’s hot out, but Weezer’s here now, everything’s gonna be alright…”

The night was full of strange comments and awesome performances. Weezer was in a form I hadn’t seen before: energetic, smiling, happy, and communicative. Guitarist Brian Bell is perhaps the only man I’ve seen who actually gets more adorable as he gets older, with his retro shirts and big smiles. New bassist Scott Shriner definitely enjoys the spotlight and strikes metal poses at completely inappropriate points in songs.

Perhaps the best part of the night was the set list. On previous tours, Karl posted the set list for each show on weezer.com and the list remained unchanged from city to city. However, for this one, the band randomly picked songs before each show so the Web fanatics couldn’t predict. Before each song they distorted the intro for a little bit of suspense, and then… there! Five songs off the “Blue Album, “six songs off Pinkerton (“Tired Of Sex,” “Why Bother,” “The Good Life,” “El Scorcho,” “Getchoo,” and the aforementioned “Pink Triangle”), and a bare minimum of “Green Album” fluff, thankfully.

During “Say It Ain’t So” and “Hash Pipe,” flames shooting up from either side of the drum set provided a nice touch, and during “No One Else,” the usual lighted Weezer “W” made its appearance with a new twist — rising up from underneath the drum set, elevating Pat Wilson and his kit up high above! The effect ruled, in that cheesy rock star sort of way.

The night ended Weezer style with crazy noise for a long time, then a big encore. “We rock,” said Rivers, with both fists in the air. The kids staggered out into the Hotlanta night, full and satisfied with the rock music.

Despite the technical difficulties, stifling heat, and asshole promoters who cut off water to the venue, forcing kids to buy $3.50 bottles of water, the show was amazing, and my favorite Weezer show yet. The band’s happiness really rubs off. One thing Rivers did confused me, though. When the music was over, he walked right up to the edge of the stage like he was going to shake hands with the kids in the pit. When he reached them, he just grinned this maniacal grin, and turned around and left. I hope that’s not what Weezer is doing here — raising expectations, then turning tail and disappearing without explanation, like they did after Pinkerton. Weezer success is high right now, with the “Keep Fishin'” single and its kickass video with the Muppets. No matter what happens, Weezer will come out on top, and this tour will be just part of the history of a talented (and long-lasting!) rock band.

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