Concert Review: Weezer Live At Taste of Chicago 7/8/15

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Known as ancestors to the whole emo-rock movement, Weezer never really had much in common with the subgenre.

Their debut album was the big-bang that birthed hundreds of bands looking to wear their heart on their sleeve while at the same time rocking hard.

After the passing of Kurt Cobain, the disgruntled youth of America had a new hero in Rivers Cuomo, someone who looked more like an office worker than a rock star with his thick-rimmed glasses and buzz cut.

So while the band certainly had an emotional honesty to them, The Blue Album had more in common with Brian Wilson's teenage reveries than with the Warped Tour crowd.

After the Blue Album ushered Weezer into the big time, Rivers pulled another Brian Wilson move by freaking out at the stardom, recording a bitter and angry follow up (Pinkerton), growing a beard and than leaving the rock scene to go study at Harvard.

Not your average episode of Behind The Music.

It took five years before their much ballyhooed comeback and in 2001 Weezer returned with a glossy new punk pop album (once again self titled, this time in the color lime green). Realizing their strength was in catchy, short blasts of punk pop, the guys regained their fan base.

The 2000's found Rivers content with watering down the Blue Album blueprint, laying on a thick helping of humor and mostly staying away from the frayed-nerve soul bearing honesty of Pinkerton. They easily doubled their following.

Last Wednesday the band headlined the opening night of Taste Of Chicago.

Not exactly the optimum place to see and hear a band, the Petrillo Band Shell has a couple hundred seats surrounded by acres of lawn seating. But for a summer night concert it was a fine venue.

Opener Saint Motel couldn't quite get the crowd going early on.

An early show (headliner's went on at 6:45) meant the sun was still up, and any band knows how much more difficult it is to rock during the day.

Their highly stylized mix of british pop and dance rock couldn't quite connect will the nerd-rock segment that populated this corner of the Taste Of Chicago.

When it came time for Weezer to make it's entrance they did so with aplomb delving right into the Blue Album opener "My Name Is Jonas." The outdoor band shell sound resulted in a bit of delay on the drums, but that is pretty much a given with a large, outdoor rock show.

So drummer Pat Wilson would crack his snare and you would count to two and then hear that snare hit. Once again, not optimum, but one hell of a fun summer rock show followed.

While the majority of the band's set consisted of their well-worn greatest hits (arguably the most universal set of alt-rock hit singles of the past twenty years) like "Say It Ain't So," "Hash Pipe," "Buddy Holly," "Island In The Sun," and "Undone - The Sweater Song," a handful of newer songs made an equal impression.

2010's under loved "Memories," which originally featured the cast of Jackass on background vocals went over very well as their first encore.

Two offerings off last year's return to form Everything Will Be Alright In The End, "Eulogy For A Rock Band" and "Back To The Shack" also gained momentum in the live setting.

However, a few slight missteps are par for the course for the Weez.

Their 2005 boneheaded sell-out track "Beverly Hills" limped to the finish line, and a few songs suffered by having Rivers farm out lead vocals to guitarist Brian Bell and bassist Scott Shriner.

The complaints are few and far between on this picturesque night (save for a light drizzle toward the end of the set) at the Taste of Chicago. Rivers Cuomo's on-point vocals and sea-parting lead guitar make an instant impression to both the old and new fan. Also the bands humor is still alive and well, with the guys cracking wise about Yahtzee, doing impressions of effects pedals with their voices and the whole band beating on the drum kit together during the final encore.

Rock music needs Weezer. So glad they are in a great place in 2015. Highly recommended.

Photo Credit: Andy Derer

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