It was a great night for Generation X at the AMP this past Sunday as Weezer and the Pixies rolled through NWA as part of their summer co-headlining tour. Although both bands are still active (and Weezer is actually enjoying one of the biggest hits of their career, their virally inspired and faithful rendition of Toto’s classic “Africa”), their sets featured many of the time-honored hits that secured their respective places in rock history alongside the recent releases that have them back out on the road.
Weezer’s set was as whimsical as one might expect, opening with the theme from “Happy Days” and featuring a number of elaborate backdrops, starting with a facsimile of Arnold’s Diner as they plowed through “Buddy Holly” (just like in the video). If you were there for ‘90s nostalgia, you weren’t disappointed, as essentially all the key tracks from their 1994 debut and sophomore milestone Pinkerton were performed amidst a surprising amount of pyro and a brightly lit W. Costume changes were also part of the evening’s theatrics, with front man Rivers Cuomo beginning the night in one of his trademark sweaters accentuating his nerdy look before eventually winding up in a Nirvana t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. The nostalgic nods didn’t end there.
Despite having a dozen or so LPs of original material, Weezer paid tribute to several other bands with covers, mash-up, and quotes. Naturally, they “blessed the rains down in Africa.” Maladroit deep cut “Burndt Jamb” was modified with lyrics from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Cuomo did an acoustic cover of a-ha’s “Take On Me” in case the Toto cover wasn’t enough ‘80s for you. And so on. Still, the band also showed a lot of love to their latter day singles, with “Beverly Hills”, “Pork and Beans”, “Troublemaker”, and others making appearances.
Weezer was clearly having a great time on-stage, and their sometimes silly antics aside, the performance itself was on point. After a stretch as a five-piece with drummer Patrick Wilson switching to guitar, Rivers Cuomo focusing entirely on singing, and bringing in one of the most prolific session drummers ever, Josh Freese, the band has reverted back to its original four-piece configuration in recent years. Cuomo’s time unencumbered by a Strat didn’t diminish his chops in any way, as he riffed with the same fury and fervor as he did in the good ol’ 1990s. It was an almost perfect set for a casual Weezer fan, and die-hard Weezer fans are pretty much impossible to disappoint, although Rivers did press his luck a bit by repeatedly addressing the “Arizona” crowd. It was honestly hard to tell whether or not he was serious, but especially after the second time it did seem to deflate the crowd slightly, though overall their set was a solid success.
When Weezer first broke through to mainstream glory in the post Nirvana music world, it was almost impossible to crack open a Rolling Stone or Alternative Press and not find some comparison between them and the Pixies. Even though their presentation is drastically different, Weezer’s goofball shenanigans couldn’t be further from the Pixies stoic determination, musically they compliment each other very well, and the levity of Weezer’s performance was welcomed by the audience’s need to recover after the intense sonic onslaught that was the Pixies’ set.
The Pixies have never been the most talkative band on-stage, but they seriously did not spare a solitary second of their stage time to quip with the crowd. Not a single word was uttered into a mic during their set that wasn’t a lyric being sung. No “hey Arkansas!” No “thank you, goodnight!” Nothing. Really the only acknowledgement they even made that there was an audience at all was an extended, theatrical bow-taking with arms interlocked after they played. And that’s just fine. After ripping as hard as they did, nothing else needed to be said anyway.
That’s not to say that they let Weezer have all the fun with the theatrics. During live staple “Vamos”, bona fide guitar hero Joey Santiago performed incredible feats of guitar wizardry with distortion and feedback, seemingly using his fedora to manipulate his trusty Les Paul like a theremin, then managing to use an unplugged cable as a musical instrument. It was very impressive. Drummer David Lovering is a known stage magician, so maybe some of his act has rubbed off on Santiago.
It always seemed like the Pixies were one of those bands like U2 where it’s pretty much impossible to imagine them as anything other than the four original members, but they seem to have held on to the magic after original bassist Kim Deal’s departure in 2013. It’s really impossible to overstate Deal’s importance to the band, but her replacement, ex-A Perfect Circle and Zwan bassist Paz Lenchantin, does a spectacular job of filling her shoes. Her voice is at times a dead ringer for Deal’s, which makes it a lot easier to accept things like the band still performing songs like “Gigantic”. Also, she sings “All I Think About Now” (an apology letter to Deal written by Pixie-in-Chief Black Francis/Frank Black/whatever he’s calling himself nowadays), which is probably the best post-reunion Pixies song.
Posted by Ryan Cook on Sunday, July 29, 2018
The Pixies’ set was light on material from their two most recent records, relying heavily on their quintessential masterpiece Doolittle, but featuring tracks from all their major releases except Bossanova. Like their fellow headliners, the Pixies were generous with the hits. The crowd went nuts when they played “Where Is My Mind?”, surely thanks at least in part to its inclusion in the closing credits of Fight Club and subsequent status as a cultural touchstone. The band kept a brisk pace, barely pausing between songs. A lot of their songs evoke a sense of urgency and maybe even some anxiety, and that feeling was multiplied by their laser beam focus on playing a rock ass set. The result was marvelous, even though it added some gravity and seriousness to the vibe.
However, the stage presence of their predecessors Sleigh Bells could not have been more different. Singer Alexis Krauss seemed genuinely thrilled to “(play) Arkansas for the first time in (their) career!” Although they’re four LPs into their career, the weight of a comparatively new band opening for two alt titans was not lost on her, either, as she described every show of the past two weeks of their tour as a “pinch me moment.” She also assured the audience that we were the best one of the tour so far. If she was lying, she’s a very convincing liar, because she seemed genuinely stoked about, well, everything.
Guitarist and all-around Sleigh Bells mastermind Derek E. Miller also teased the nights headliners, briefly playing the iconic opening riff of “Say It Ain’t So” before launching into “And Saints” from last year’s mini-album Kid Kruschev. In spite of the fact that they faced a tall order in opening for not one but two future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Sleigh Bells held their own, hyping the crowd and keeping them engaged with their own hits like “Comeback Kid”, “Crown on the Ground”, and “Infinity Guitars”.
The fun seemingly never stops at the AMP, because Shindigmusic is headed back TONIGHT for Coheed and Cambria and Taking Back Sunday! This Cox Summer Concert Series has really been a blessing for music fans in the region. If you haven’t made it to a show yet, you’re really missing out on a lot of fun, but fear not, we’ll be here to bring you all the news and reviews of everything happening at the AMP and everywhere else in the area.
All the setlists from Sunday night are listed below.
Pork and Beans
Undone – The Sweater Song
My Name is Jonas
In the Garage
No One Other
Island in the Sun
Take on Me
Burndt Jamb/Smells Like Teen Spirit
(If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To
Feels Like Summer
Say It Ain’t So/Paranoid
Wave of Mutilation
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Isla de Encanta
All the Saints
Here Comes Your Man
Where is My Mind?
All I Think About Now
Planet of Sound
Blue Trash Mattress Fire
I Can Only Stare
Crown on the Ground
Photo Credit: Scott Parker Video Credit: Ryan Cook (Illusionaut)