An Evening With Rivers Cuomo At The Hi Hat, Saturday March 10th 2018
Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you check your emails at the right time, during a short lunch pause and you realize that Rivers Cuomo is about to do a show almost around the corner, at the Hi Hat of all the small venues! And you realize you only have a few minutes to buy a ticket, because you know it’s gonna sell out instantaneously. Of course the show did sell out very fast but I did buy a ticket and I am not even a die-hard Weezer fan. Should I feel bad for these fans who could not get in? No, I deserved it and it was a lot of fun.
On a rainy Los Angeles afternoon – yes the show which was advertised as ‘An evening with Rivers Cuomo’ was strangely happening very early – I lined up in front of the Hi Hat around 3 pm to get close to the stage with a few privileged fans, II would say that 99% of them were the most fervent Weezer fans I have been around, the sing-along was constant, and Rivers Cuomo did rely on it the whole time. When I say the whole time, I am talking about 27 songs that he performed alone, with his 2 acoustic guitars and 4 bottles of pink lemonade or whatever was inside this pink liquid.
We could get in at 4:30 pm, Rivers arrived on stage about 45 minutes later, and he seemed to be in a very good spirit, really happy to be doing such an intimate show, as he told us several times: ‘You have no idea how much fun this is!’
He started with two covers, first a breathy and almost weary R.E.M.’s ‘Losing my Religion’ that he connected to the upcoming recording of Sam Harris’ podcast with Steven Pinker in Hollywood, and this made me a little excited right away. Rivers Cuomo listens to Sam Harris as i do? He followed with The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Today’ after admitting, ‘These are songs I usually do not cover. Don’t get worried, it’s gonna be a super weird show’.
He actually did many covers beside these two starters, two collaborations, B.o.B’s ‘Magic’ and AJR’s ‘Sober Up’, but also Oasis’ Champagne Supernova’, and Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’, and when Cuomo covers a song, he almost sounds like the original. He totally surprised me with a very good Liam Gallagher impression, even though I am pretty sure he was not doing an impression.
The show, which he said ‘will be full of surprises’, was actually filled with old-school Weezer songs, and among them, the most well known tunes, some extremely familiar ones, even to a casual fan like me. Just look at this setlist (which did only exist on his computer screen), there were plenty of songs from the blue album, ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Undone’, ‘No One Else’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’, plenty of songs from the ‘Pinkerton’ album, ‘The Good Life’, ‘El Scorcho’, Pink Triangle’, Why Bother?’… and I can assure you that every single lip in the room was moving along with Rivers’. In moments like these, you realize how many Weezer songs are simple summer hits and how many tunes are part of the California soundscapes of the ’90s and early ’00s. Despite the rainy weather outside, all these poppy choruses, all these power chords, all these endearing hooks, just performed by Cuomo and his acoustic guitar, were screaming careless kids bouncing on a sunny beach. I mean by that there was a sort of innocence and pure nostalgic abandon in the adoring crowd’s incessant sing-along and despite the awkwardness of some the nerd-friendly lyrics, it was a very happy time for this all-age audience. When you play side by side ‘California Kids’, ‘Feels Like Summer’, ‘Beverly Hills’, ‘The Good Life’, there is obviously an idea of happy times. After a large sip of these pink electrolytes, Cuomo continued his music marathon with more songs and covers, keeping this same upbeat attitude throughout the entire set of music, doing a few acoustic chords escapes from the regular song, while the crowd was providing the ooo-ooos or whatever they felt doing.
I was far less familiar with the most recent songs and certainly not with his collaborations with B.o.B and AJR, which he covered with great enthusiasm, but honestly I was here for ‘The Sweater Song’ or ‘Pink Triangle’ and other diary entries of his eternal inner high-school boy. After a while, I almost grew tired of these endless crowd choruses, they did not let him sing one song without a loud choir, and if it worked perfectly for the woo-ooos during ‘Perfect Situation’, it also got very funny when everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs the lyrics of ‘Pink Triangle’: ‘I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian/I thought I had found the one’…
‘You’re the man’ said someone after ‘No One Else’. Rivers Cuomo was interacting with the crowd a bit strangely, reading a message on his phone, doing a few inside jokes, and making people laugh, but the interaction got a bit odd, especially when a girl at the end tried to make him sign a poster. As she was holding him a sharpie, he realized the cap was still on and gave the pen back to her without signing the poster. I am not sure what this was about, but he also refused to sign anything presented at him on my side of the stage, despite the fact that the entire show was a love fest, despite the fact he told us what a great crowd we were. For sure, every single person in the room could have sung every song in its entirety and he complimented the crowd for the back up vocals during songs such as ‘Buddy Holly’ or ‘Where Is My Mind?’, but he would not sign a thing?
Ending with a Pixies cover to remind us Weezer is gonna tour with them this summer was not a bad idea, but was that the idea? I doubt these solo shows (he also did one in Colorado last month) are weird promotions of an upcoming tour with the Pixies, it looks like the Hi Hat show happened just like that, and Rivers Cuomo was having a lot of fun playing alone this semi-marathon of songs, working on his posture and drinking this pink fluid. ‘This is such a gift’ had screamed a girl at the beginning of the show, a feeling probably approved by everyone in the room. Rivers Cuomo didn’t have any good reason to do that, he may have been a gift to his fans, but at the end, he looked so happy that the show may strangely have worked as a gift to himself.
Losing My Religion (R.E.M. cover)
Today (The Smashing Pumpkins cover)
Island in the Sun (Weezer song)
Across the Sea (Weezer song)
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To (Weezer song)
El Scorcho (Weezer song)
California Kids (Weezer song)
Feels Like Summer (Weezer song)
Beverly Hills (Weezer song)
The Good Life (Weezer song)
In the Garage (Weezer song)
No Other One (Weezer song)
Magic (B.o.B cover)
Pork and Beans (Weezer song)
Sober Up (AJR cover)
Undone – The Sweater Song (Weezer song)
Hash Pipe (Weezer song) (Snippet)
L.A. Girlz (Weezer song)
No One Else (Weezer song)
Falling for You (Weezer song)
Pink Triangle (Weezer song)
Why Bother? (Weezer song)
Perfect Situation (Weezer song)
Champagne Supernova (Oasis cover)
Say It Ain’t So (Weezer song)
Buddy Holly (Weezer song)
Where Is My Mind? (Pixies cover)