by Brian McKay
Friday night’s Weezer / Pixies concert at the Ford Idaho Event Center had created a lot of excitement for me. The Pixies have always been among my favorite bands since first listening to the album Surfer Rosa in the late 1980’s. Weezer is a band I’ve always enjoyed. They have some standout songs, but I can’t say I have ever listened to a record on repeat as I once did the Pixies. Yes, I was there to see the Pixies more than Weezer.
Before going any further, one biased needs to be discussed. The recent Weezer re-do of Toto’s Africa is beyond painful and awful to me. There is no significant addition or change to track and the vocal range of Weezer’s front man, Rivers Cuomo, just destroyed that song for me. So yes, I am biased.
We departed from the downtown Boise staple, Pengilly’s, at 7.15 pm. While doors had opened at 6 and the first band started at 7, who wants to drive toward Nampa during rush hour on a Friday? Not this guy. The opening act could be missed.
Arriving at 7.40 was just about perfect timing as the Pixies started shortly thereafter. Upon spending a good 10 minutes trying to find our floor seats (hello Ford Center! Pink chalk can’t be seen in the dark), we were jamming away.
The Pixies simply rock. Seriously. They don’t talk, the lights change colors just occasionally, there are no additional screens or logos and the spotlight will only sparingly shine on one of them. Showmanship is set to zero aside from bassist Paz Lenchantin occasionally swinging a hip, but that only seems to highlight just how great they are as a band. We were there to hear Black Francis sing his game changing lyrics and hear their “loud – quiet” shifts. That’s what we got, and it was fabulous.
If the Pixies had once been influences to Nirvana, Radiohead, Bush and even Weezer, some of the crowd wasn’t fully aware. A crowd that was equally young and middle age was cheering and clapping very enthusiastically to the well-known songs like “Where is My Mind, “Gouge Away”, “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven’. Even though the crowd sang along to the very popular Pixies songs, it wasn’t used by the band as a showmanship tool. It was apparent that much of the younger crowd was a little lost upon hearing very early Pixies songs like “Nimrod’s Son” or “Vamos”. Some sitting ensued among the younger crowd members near the end of the set. We old guys, couldn’t get enough though.
The Pixies were pure YAH! My buddy and I agreed that Weezer had a hard act to follow.
Weezer? Well I am now thinking of them as a cover band with some good original songs.
If the Pixies didn’t need showmanship, Weezer more than made up for them and it seems the entire crowd was into it. Well except for a few of us. Over the top isn’t the reason some of us love the small band feel of Treefort Music Festival and this was over the top. Flames coming up from the stage, a little row boat thing to take River Cuomo around the periphery of the floor seats, changing backgrounds and a huge W behind the stage, were all part of the act.
Starting out with as a barber shop quartet singing “Beverly Hills” was fairly cool. Opening the stage up with “Buddy Holly” was a good move and it was looking like Weezer might be a great follow up to Pixies. They sounded great and songs like “Undone – Sweater Song” were a blast to sing along with. So, what’s my beef here? Cover songs. Song covers are ok if you plan to play to drunken bar patrons. Covering a song can be amazing if you make it your own. The intent here was neither.
Oh dear. How can a band that was part of good 90’s alternative now be singing Black Sabbath, Toto, Tears for Fears and A-Ha with flames shooting from the stage? How can said band not sing a recent hit of theirs like “Feels Like Summer” but is engaging the crowd to wave phone flashlights and sing “Africa” with them. At times one wondered if Rivers had the crowd sing along in order to mask that he picked some covers a little higher than his vocal range?
It was apparent that most people were there for Weezer. No one sat. People were dancing, cheering and waving their phone flashlights. The cover songs along with a few of the classic Weezer favorites had the crowd going. Very little was played off the new album. That seems to be Weezer’s formula for success and it obviously works for most. Is it any wonder that when I jokingly told my friend that they would be singing Air Supply as an encore he looked shocked and believed me until I told him I was kidding?
And that was the blah. Weezer was fun, but that was about it. Poor covers and over the top showmanship kind of killed all the good things though. It seems, Weezer is a cover / party band parading as a headline act. They’d be great fun to see in a bar but not following the Pixies on a big stage.
Walking out I heard a woman say to her male companion, “I feel like we just paid for showmanship over show.”
At least my friend and I weren’t alone in our assessment.
Thanks Pixies for a great concert.