From the Pit: Weezer @ Madison Square Garden, 9/24/08

I was surprised to find out that in the fifteen years that Weezer has been putting out some of hardest and catchiest pop music around, last Wednesday night’s show was their first time headlining the storied arena. Go figure.

Rivers Cuomo is one of the more interesting front men in rock. At some moments he is rocking out as hard as he can; case in point…

At times he lets his Harvard-educated inner nerd come through, addressing the crowd in Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and Portuguese over the course of the night. Finally, he ended up the night in a soccer uniform, complete with knee protection. The randomness of it was pretty funny.

An eclectic crowd filled the not-quite-sold-out Garden. From the kids that were out late on a school night, like this guy, to people like myself that have been listening to them since the beginning and haven’t had a “school night” in many years. This was my third time seeing them and if prior shows felt like Rivers Cuomo and his band, Wednesday night’s show was a more of a complete team productions.

Rivers is without a doubt the leader, but each member of the band got a chance to take lead vocals, which made songs that I’ve heard so many times sound a different. The “Weezerheads” (or whatever they’re called) on the band’s message board seem to be taking issue with Rivers letting others sing his songs, but the jamband fan in me appreciated the band changing things up — even if they weren’t sung as well as he could do ’em.

The setlist spanned the band’s entire catalog, with over 20 songs in their tight 90 minute set. Old-school highlights for me were “El Scorcho,” off of Pinkerton, the classic “Undone (The Sweater Song),” and “Hash Pipe.” As much as their songs’ catchy hooks grab the listener, their heart-felt lyrics make them a more than your standard power/emo pop. One of the funniest moments of the night came early, during “Pink Triangle,” when the MSG crowd sang the lines “my god she’s a lesbian, I thought I had found the one.” No other band has lyrics like that.

In addition to a healthy dose of old-school, the set was heavy on songs from their latest release, their third self-titled effort (but known as the Red album). “Pork and Beans” and “Troublemaker” rocked, and the band redeemed one of the more unusual songs on the new disc, “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.” On the album, the song had not grabbed me, but its grandiosity was perfect for filling up an arena with sound. “King,” the album closer, was sung by Scott Shriner, the bass player, and was a highlight of the evening, powerful and featuring some of Brian Bell’s best guitar work of the evening.

Rivers took his turn behind the skins during the band’s take on Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”

Lead vocals on this one were handled by their drummer, Patrick Wilson.

There were two encores, each with something unique to offer. The first was a “Hootenany” that filled the stage with musicians playing everything from acoustic guitar, to flutes, to horns, to accordions. Rivers got lost in the crowd, as he lead them through “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills.” The second cover, Nirvana’s “Sliver,” opened the second encore leading up to the show closing “Buddy Holly,” a song that sounds as fresh in 2008 as when it was released in 1994.

In all a tight, fun show from a band that created emo rock and continues to show the wannabes how it should be done.

A selection of photos from the night are below, and my full set of photos from the night can be found at

Madison Square Garden
New York City, 9/24/08
(My Name Is) Jonas
Pink Triangle
Perfect Situation
Say it Ain’t So
Keep Fishin’
Undone (The Sweater Song)
Pork and Beans
Dope Nose
Hash Pipe
El Schorcho
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived

Encore 1
Island in the Sun
Beverly Hills

Encore 2
Heart Song > Sliver
Buddy Holly