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Weezer played ‘The Blue Album’ @ the Congress Theater w/ Urge Overkill, Teenage Bottlerocket, & White Mystery (review)

words by Parker Langvardt

Weezer @ Congress Theater (photo via @enfusraye)
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Back on Sunday night, 10/9, after a fan-generated vote to choose which album they’d play, Weezer performed the Blue Album in its entirety as well as another full set of hits at the Congress Theater as part of Riot Fest Chicago .

Chicago’s up and coming brother and sister duo White Mystery opened the final night with their bluesy garage rock. Guitarist Alex White‘s Rickenbacker guitar and Orange amp pumped out dirty, overdriven tones- a good pairing with Francis Scott Key White‘s heavy tom parts.

Teenage Bottlerocket were the only band that really fell into the punk category for the night, and a lot of attendees who had been to the other Riot Fest shows noted that Weezer isn’t punk, seeming slightly irritated. Teenage Bottlerocket were good, but would have fit better on a different night’s bill.

Locals Urge Overkill played driving hard rock with slightly southern elements, especially the vocals, chord changes, and guitar solos. Their singer summed up the sound of the Congress Theater well- “Sounds like busking in a subway,” he said, and then made a comment about how we all fit into this submarine, so they’re going to play a song off of their new album Rock & Roll Submarine. They had good harmonies and melodic instrumentation, and their drummer makes them sound tight. At times it reminded me of Load-era Metallica, without all the suck.

Weezer opened their greatest hits set with “Troublemaker” from the Red Album, a typically catchy song for the band. Frontman Rivers Cuomo dedicated the night to their Green Album and Christmas EP which featured former bassist Mikey Welsh, who passed away the day before this show in a Chicago hotel room.

“El Scorcho” made for a great sing-a-long. As soon as they began to play their heavy anthem “Hash Pipe,” the Congress Theater smelled a whole lot better. “Perfect Situation” lightened the mood a bit, giving way to a bit of crowd surfing. It was then that it hit me that Weezer, whose music is often based on the idea of acceptance, fit in with the otherwise punk festival just fine. Their fans were just as kind and talkative as Saturday (10/8)’s Descendents show at the venue. At first they come off as a big-time rock band, but their starkly bright “W” that hangs behind the band illuminates the crowd, encouraging people to look around and interact. They also encourage and expect the crowd to sing, and the crowd sang louder and more in key than most I’ve ever been a part of.

Then Cuomo pulled a little promotional tactic, playing a song for the upcoming Weezer Cruise in January and passing out a giant stack of fliers. They followed with “Island in the Sun,” fitting, as their destination is Cozumel, Mexico.

They then did the last thing anyone expected by pulling out their cover of “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead, managing to alienate at least a quarter of their audience. I was very impressed by the recording, and it translated well into a slightly softer live version. Cuomo didn’t have that eerie Yorke-ness when singing live. Someone once commented to me that “Paranoid Android” is like three songs in one, and after watching it live, I finally understand what they mean. The suspense that’s created during the two major breakdowns is incredible. Of course they followed such a deep, moving performance with “Beverly Hills,” and of course I had to like it…just a little bit. It’s their pop interpretation of AC/DC‘s simple chord stops and it’s irritatingly catchy. I do have to say that the talk box solo was way cooler to watch live than to listen to on the recording. The show was so fun that the security guards even seemed to take joy in catching crowd surfers, though maybe it was just because this crowd was far less rowdy than those of the rest of the weekend.

After a short intermission, Weezer took the stage once again, playing “My Name is Jonas” to kick off their performance of the Blue Album. Everyone sang along to the instantly recognizable tune, and the punk-speed sections had people jumping and dancing. Bassist Scott Shriner mumbled the party-conversation sections in “Undone – The Sweater Song” and conversations throughout the crowd added to the ambiance. As much as “Say It Ain’t So” seems to work into Pandora and my shuffle, it will never get old and it was a delight to hear that bluesy guitar. The transition between the chorus lyric of “Holiday” to the “har-art-bee-eat” section always hits so hard. Shriner’s voice melded with his bass tone as the song faded away to the barbershop quartet bridge. “Only in Dreams” was a great closer to a show. I had myself wondering whether Pinkerton would have been a better choice, as the songs I really liked on Blue Album would have probably been played anyway in the first set. Regardless, it was Weezer, and it was great.

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