Weezer and the Pixies deliver a wildly different look back at the '90s in Vancouver

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      At Rogers Arena on Sunday, April 7

      Having the Pixies open for Weezer is a strange thing. The Pixies' influence on rock music is undeniable: there would probably be no Weezer without the Pixies. To make a point: when the Pixies played before Radiohead at Coachella years ago, Thom Yorke famously said, “There’s no way we can follow the Pixies!” Obviously, Weezer has sold a shit-ton more records than the Pixies, but I would imagine Rivers Cuomo might feel a bit apprehensive having the Boston-formed alt-rock legends open for him.

      That said, the order of operations of the evening at Rogers Arena felt right. The Pixies’ set was more subdued than the headliners, and darker lighting tones suited the songs well. Most of the arena was packed for the band's set, with many singing and dancing along to singer Black Francis's strange blend of abrasive yet melodic pop songs. The crowd was a mixed bag, from aging alternative '90s kids turned adults to a decent amount of younger faces.  

      Opening with “Cactus” from the uber-influential Surfer Rosa from 1987, the Pixies played a smattering of fan favourites, including “Nimrod’s Son”, “Where Is My Mind”, “Wave of Mutilation”, and “Bone Machine”. The set list relied heavily on earlier material, with new songs peppered throughout. That mix kept the audience mostly engaged, though toward the middle of the set a succession of new songs caused a bit of a lull in the excitement. Perhaps an arena of Weezer fans isn’t the best place to debut new material.

      Kim Deal replacement Paz Lenchantin proved a worthy successor and sounded great on bass and backing vocals. It was surprising how well she handled “Gigantic”—a fan favourite sung by Deal originally—and the audience sang along with her, making a nice touch to the end of the set. Drummer David Lovering was intense as ever; though the Pixies never had the most intricate of drum riffs, it takes a special type of drummer to play as consistent and hard as Lovering does. Guitarist Joey Santiago donned a black wool flat cap and and played his distinctive leads with passion and fervour, while Francis went from whispers to screams on a turn.

      Hearing the Pixies on the sound system in Rogers Arena was a thing to behold. “Gouge Away”, from 1989’s infamous Doolittle, rumbled the entire floor of the garage, and blazing renditions of “Planet of Sound”, “Vamos”, and “Isla de Encanta” kept the audience excited. The Pixies did not interact with the audience at all, and let the music speak for itself. Still, the alternative pioneers seemed to be in good spirits and played great.

      Opening its set with a brief a cappella version of “Beverly Hills” while dressed in barbershop-quartet outfits, Weezer instantly shifted the mood in Rogers Arena. Once the curtain dropped, the stage was set up to look a lot like the Happy Days set from their famous video for “Buddy Holly” off of their debut album, including a giant neon W. Weezer quickly launched into the aforementioned song. The crowd cheered uproariously as Rivers Cuomo and company started the show with a bang, going as far as to shoot confetti out of cannons during their opening moments on-stage. That energy didn’t let up the entire night.

      Weezer’s set list also leaned heavily on early material, the group playing a good chunk of its first album, including “My Name Is Jonas”, “Undone—The Sweater Song”, and “Surf Wax America”. Also included were number from 1996’s originally-slagged-by-critics-but-now-dubbed-an-indie-masterpiece Pinkerton, with “The Good Life” and “El Scorcho” delivering much of the feel-good vibes Weezer was so famous for back in the day. "Pork and Beans” also received a rapturous reception.

      The energy remained high with a rendition of Toto’s “Africa”, a fan-voted cover that has become a bit of a linchpin in the band's sets. Other covers from Weezer's recently released “Teal" album suggested that the audience enjoys them as much as the band does playing them. This included “Take On Me” by A-ha, “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, and “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King.

      It would have been nice to hear more of Weezer's own material from the recently released, self-titled “Black” album, as “Can’t Knock the Hustle” was the single song played. Still, it was really fun singing along to the chorus of “Africa” and “Take On Me” with a stadium of fans.

      Later in the evening, flames shot out of the stage accompanied by strobe lights, swirling colours, smoke, and of course that giant, lit-up Weezer W symbol, just in case you weren’t sure which concert you were at. The sound was stellar, with each instrument and vocal mixed perfectly to avoid the echo so common in arena shows.

      A tender moment happened when Rivers stepped into a small boat marked “S.S. WEEZER” at the side of the stage and then proceeded to “sail” to the back of the arena to allow him to serenade people that couldn’t afford $250 a ticket. His mini-journey saw him play “Perfect Situation” from 2005’s Make Believe, as well as “Stand by Me”. Before leaving the stage prior to the encore, the band rocked out on “Hash Pipe”, with green and red lights swirling and flashing.

      The evening ended with quite possibly Weezer's greatest song, and definitely one of the best tracks of the '90s. “Say It Ain’t So” had fists pumping in the audience, as well as people making little “W" signs with their fingers in the air. Lights, smoke, and fans screaming along with the chorus made for an epic climax of the evening.

      Delivering nothing short of spectacle, Weezer proved it can have fun while still rocking out. Having the Pixies give a little history lesson beforehand really made the evening a full and fun experience.

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