Weezer have always been a divisive bunch. From their decision to follow-up the brash pop-rock might of their self-titled debut with 1996’s odd, introspective ‘Pinkerton’, the Californian four-piece have never been afraid of doing whatever they fancy.
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There’s been a covers album (2019’s ‘The Teal Album’), homages to The Beach Boys (2016’s ‘White Album’) and 2007’s ‘Red Album’ even saw frontman Rivers Cuomo try his hand at rap. Out later this year, ‘Van Weezer’ finds the band embracing stadium rock, ready for their much-hyped Hella Mega tour with Fall Out Boy and Green Day.
Live, though, the band have always stuck to the hits with a handful of crowd-pleasing covers thrown in for good measure. High-energy, high entertainment, they’re the perfect festival band. Which begs the question: where does the recently released ‘OK Human’ fit in post-COVID?
Finished during lockdown and written about Cuomo’s fear of technology, it sees the band ditch the electric guitar for a 38-piece orchestra. It is, as Cuomo told NME, “a quirky, personal, non-commercial album”. Perfect for these isolated times, but hardly the sort of music that’ll win over a crowd at London Stadium.
It’s why their livestream on Saturday evening (April 17) feels so special. Taking to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), Weezer play ‘OK Human’ front to back for the first (and probably last) time.
From the organ-led opener of ‘All My Favourite Songs to the drum-driven funk of ‘Screens’ to the understated ‘La Brea Tar Pits’, the show celebrates quiet power. Sure, there are no crunching guitars (a Weezer staple), but things never feel subdued. The orchestra perfectly captures the playful nature of the band, especially with rock star conductor Rob Mathes leading the charge. Backing vocals from guitarists Scott Shriner and Brian Bell are allowed to shine and there’s even a moment of headbanging from Cuomo, sitting at the piano for the excitable ‘Aloo Gobi’.
The swaggering ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ proves that the band can’t help but write catchy choruses, while ‘Numbers’ might be the most direct song Cuomo has ever penned. Tonight, its quiet insistence to “call on me and tell me what you need” couldn’t be warmer or more comforting.
Then, of course, the band run through some classics – albeit reworked with an orchestra. 1994’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’ comes across as the most poignant it’s ever sounded and a rare outing of 1996’s sweet ‘Fall For You’ leads into their cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’ and their iconic ‘Buddy Holly’ before the band call it a night without saying a word.
Tonight’s virtual concert saw Weezer once again try something entirely different – and succeed. On punter in the livestream’s comment box said: “Oh no – it’s actually good. I can’t clown on them now.” That’s Cuomo and co.: defying expectations since day one.
‘All My Favourite Songs’
‘Grapes of Wrath’
‘Playing My Piano’
‘Bird With a Broken Wing’
‘Everything Happens For a Reason’
‘Here Comes the Rain’
‘La Brea Tar Pits’
‘Say It Ain’t So’
‘Island In The Sun’
‘Falling For You’
‘Africa (Toto cover)’