Weezer, Angels & Airwaves and Tokyo Police Club Sunday, October 5 Broomfield Event Center
Since 1994, when Weezer's Rivers Cuomo first arrived on the national scene (and spoke to Westword in the profile accessible here), the singer-songwriter has toyed with our idea of rock stardom. But he outdid himself during a Sunday night headlining gig at the Broomfield Event Center. The vast majority of his performance was so self-consciously ironic that the stage crew should have erected giant hands on either side of the stage to make air quotes before every song Weezer played.
The show was far from packed. I arrived at the weirdly inaccessible arena (numerous roads leading to it were barricaded and signage ranged from poor to nonexistent) at a few minutes prior to the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time to find the space about 20 percent full; the final tally topped out at somewhere between half and two-thirds of capacity. The weak early turnout presented significant challenges to Tokyo Police Club, a 2007 Westword profile subject that's better known in the indie-rock world than the musical mainstream -- and the Canadian combo failed to fully overcome them. Although lead singer Dave Monks was a polite, self-deprecating presence -- his mannerisms reminded me of Michael Cera's in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, a flick I'd seen the day before -- he hardly commanded the stage; Graham Wright, who twitched and spasmed over his keyboard so wildly that I'm surprised someone didn't call a nurse, was infinitely more fun to watch. Worse, the lousy opening-band sound mix tended to swallow his unexpectedly laconic vocals, which were frequently at odds with punchy, fragmentary material like "Box," "Nature of the Experiment" and "Your English is Good." The set wasn't a catastrophe, in part because the crowd, such as it was, seemed happy to have something to focus on other than the emptiness of the room. Still, I suspect that at this phase of its development, the band would have been a lot more fun to see in a small club than in such a cavernous space.
Not so Angels & Airwaves. The group, fronted by onetime Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge, has put out two lousy albums thus far, but in concert, it was even worse than I'd expected.
The portentuousness of the outfit's conception was obvious even before it took the stage thanks to fifteen minutes of bad sci-fi synthesizer washes that oozed from the speaker system during the sound check. Finally, DeLonge appeared, wearing a black quasi-uniform and an expression of self-importance that stood in stark (and unfortunate) contrast with his one-of-the-boys Blink persona. He delivered leaden, still-born tunes such as "Heaven," "Everything's Magic," "Breathe" and the aptly titled "Crappy Love Ballad" as if mugging for Triumph of the Will director Leni Riefenstahl -- lots of raised hands and sweeping gestures -- and his between-song banter was equally snooty, suggesting that he looked upon his earlier material with contempt. At one point, he said that he'd originally started playing music at fourteen to get girls -- but now, he was dedicated to giving us "some electricity."
Unfortunately, there was a severe power shortage, due in part to DeLonge's lack of likability. I had anticipated that he'd say something nice about ex-Blink drummer Travis Barker, who was recently released from the hospital after being badly injured in a plane crash. But no: He was far too into his own misguided trip to think about anyone else other than himself -- his fans included. Throughout Angels & Airwaves' time in the blindingly irritating spotlights, the guy next to me hollered "Blink-182" -- but his tone became increasingly plaintive, as if he couldn't believe how the rocker he'd once loved had turned into such an asshole.
And then came Weezer, with bandmembers Cuomo, drummer Patrick Wilson, bassist Scott Shriner and guitarist Brian Bell clad in jumpsuits that made them look less like vintage Devo than a team of janitors arriving for the overnight shift. The oddity was amplified on song one, "My Name is Jonas," as Shriner and Bell took the main vocal lines (with the exception of the last four words) while Cuomo wandered the stage in small, shuffling steps, like an eighty-year old trying to prove that he didn't really need a walker. Shriner and Bell took other leads as well, as they do on the latest Weezer album, reviewed in Westword this past June. But it was never clear whether such sharing symbolized the increased democratization of the quartet or came as a result of Cuomo's seemingly fragile voice.
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Had Cuomo ripped up his throat during previous tour stops, forcing him to ask his comrades to give him more assists than usual? Or was it all part of the character he was playing? Like a good thespian, he never let on. Instead, he kept up the elderly man routine even after stripping off his jumpsuit to reveal a signature red track suit like the ones his bandmates also revealed. He held his hands up shakily when exhorting the crowd and satirized rock theatrics by hopping goofily on a mini-trampoline and executing floor slides during which he hardly slid at all. (He wore knee pads under his track suit that bulged like dislocated patellas.)
The effect was amusing at times, like watching an aging Pat "Schneider" Harrington from One Day at a Time going emo at a senior-citizen talent show. But it also kept the audience at arm's length or further even as it served as a distraction from songs more than strong enough to stand on their own. The players reeled out the strongest stuff from its erratic new platter, including "Troublemaker" and "Pork and Beans," plus enjoyable tuneage from the past: "Say It Ain't So," "Perfect Situation," "Undone -- The Sweater Song" (which guest wailer DeLonge managed not to wreck), "Dope Nose," "Hash Pipe" and more. And yet Cuomo, especially, never seemed to put his all into the renditions. It was as if by not trying that hard, he retained the right to shrug everything off as a joke.
The encore looked to be more of the same: Cuomo gathered well over a dozen young musicians from the area armed with a potpourri of instruments (a trombone, a tuba, cellos, double basses, etc.) to play along during versions of "Island in the Sun" and "Beverly Hills." However, this shtick resulted in the most sincere moments of the night. The locals were plainly thrilled to be there and, startlingly enough, they didn't sound bad; they'd clearly rehearsed enough to avoid sheer cacophany. If this combination of elements didn't quite convince Cuomo to drop the act, it at least encouraged him to dial down its intensity.
Predictably, Cuomo turned it back up shortly thereafter with a wacky cover of Nirvana's "Sliver" (earlier, the boys had also reeled out Oasis' "Morning Glory," too). Suddenly, he was acting younger than his age, not older, wailing "Grandma, take me home!" prior to a run-through of "Buddy Holly" that capped the bizarre set in appropriate fashion. The performance felt more like an elaborate goof than a veteran band at its best, but thanks to the strength of the material, Cuomo managed to avoid disaster. Still, it was a closer call than it needed to be. -- Michael Roberts