Do You Believe What I Sing Now – Weezer and The Pixies at Wells Fargo Arena 3/28

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For a decade now, my brother-in-law and I have had an argument over which album was better, Weezer (Blue) or Pinkerton.  He thinks it’s Pinkerton, and honestly it’s not an altogether incorrect choice. Pinkerton is a collection of songs from a tortured genius trying to come to terms with his stardom despite his social awkwardness and his brain acting as his biggest enemy. It is a very specific snapshot in a very specific person’s life, and yet it also still feels very relatable. The lyrical themes combined with the lo-fi studio work give the album an undeniable tension where you listen and appreciate, but instincts tell you that maybe there is something probably not okay with this person, in one way or another. It’s beautiful and uncomfortable and occasionally a little sketchy, but it feels very real, very vulnerable and very important.

But still, it is merely a snapshot. A specific time and place that a specific person experienced. Blue, though, feels like an entire lifetime. “My Name is Jonas” captures a youthful innocence to life. “No One Else” and “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” feel like first reactions to high school heartbreak as first the protagonist lashes out and then wallows. “Buddy Holly” and “Undone” feel like moving on to a college experience and coming into your own. “Surf Wax America” and it’s chant of “You take your car to work, I’ll take my board,” feels like early workplace exuberance before your vocation beats you down and you learn how the world actually works. “Say it Ain’t So” is struggles of parenthood and marriage, “In the Garage” is about finding your place in the world and the things that truly make you happy, away from the struggles of the real world, that takes a certain level of maturity to really understand. “Holiday” is retirement and “Only in Dreams” is death. Each track is designed to elicit the proper emotional response and each track can make you feel like you, yourself, have lived an entire lifetime in 10 tracks and approximately 41 minutes. That covers so much more ground than just a snapshot.

This might be an over analysis of the album, and I may be reading my own feelings into it, but Blue still feels so spanning and grandiose. It also came out the summer I turned 14, which was a time I was starting to look more and more into my own life. At 14, I was going to be a freshman in high school, which meant it was time to start looking at my future. The youthful joy of “My Name is Jonas” was starting to give way to the paranoid nature of “No One Else” and the hints of “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’s” isolation and sadness were starting to form.

Still, I had my whole life ahead of me. I knew that I needed to find a job and a life and happiness in adulthood. Something that would lead me to the promise and joy of “Buddy Holly” and the awkward fun of “Undone” and away from the small town malaise that was developing and threatening to engulf me (which, with the benefit of hindsight, succeeded mightily).

I started focusing more and more on writing as an outlet, but also with the idea that I could do this as a career. I was good at it. It made me feel special and I knew, I just knew, if I wrote I would do something that would change the world. I just didn’t really know how to do that or what I wanted to do to make that happen.

Before I go on, let me take a moment to talk about The Pixies. If Weezer was the soundtrack of my adolescence, The Pixies were the soundtrack of my musical awakening. When you grow up in a small town and isolated, you listen to what’s available (or at least, I did. I’m trying to generalize so I feel better about myself). The early 90’s brought a lot of wonderful and eclectic sounds to mainstream attention, but there were still several that didn’t quite break into Southern Iowa. Then the late 90s-early 00s happened and once we all (okay, I) got sick of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, I went back to catch up on the stuff I missed. That was legendary bands like The Pixies.

The Pixies were co-headliners, so they played over an hour set full of classics and new tunes. Paz Lentchantin (formerly of A Perfect Circle) has replaced Kim Deal on bass, changing The Pixies alignment from chaotic neutral to lawful evil, but the fire and the passion is still there.

Black Francis’s voice still holds up and carries the classics that make you appreciate the studio versions while being gifted a live, personalized package. The new tracks though, while very good, still had a bit of Homer Simpson watching Bachman-Turner Overdrive vibe where people seemed impatiently waiting for them to get to get to the “Try this trick and spin it” part.

I wish I had more to say about The Pixies. I wish I could sit here and type that this was some sort of transformative, life-affirming experience. The Pixies were just never that band for me. What it was, though, was a brilliant band playing brilliant songs. Sometimes that’s good enough.

The thing about watching The Pixies, though, is I was there in a “professional” capacity. I use quotes, because I’m not getting paid to write this, but I was given a reviewer’s pass. As such, I was set at a table in a press section, which has never, ever happened to me.

I’m going to be completely honest: it was kinda miserable. I was also the only one who appeared to be having fun. There were laptops open with multiple social media accounts. Photographers uploading, tweaking, adjusting, shopping photos, and there was me trying not to be too loud while I shouted along with the elongated “…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannn” from “Here Comes Your Man”, lest I come across unprofessional.

I felt awkward. I felt like I was always questioning my behavior or violating protocol. I would look over my shoulder anytime I felt like maybe I was too loud. I snuck drinks from my Coors Light because I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to have it. I waited and I waited for the hammer to fall and I was going to be asked to leave and that I was going to be exposed as a fraud. It felt…it felt like work.

So, I did the thing that seemed the most reasonable: I quit.

I didn’t leave the arena, but I left press area. I left the table and the social media apps and the photoshop and I joined my sister and brother-in-law in the nosebleeds and we sang along to the songs we knew and continued our decade long argument (on this night, Pinkerton was woefully under represented) and we had fun.

It was there I realized something: if Blue is to be taken as a timeline, then Weezer is firmly in the “In the Garage” phase, only music isn’t their escape, it’s their job. As professionals, they are fairly unmatched. They work hard and know how to put on a great show. It feels a little hollow, though. With their recent success of “Africa” and subsequent release of Weezer (Teal), Weezer has now taken the crown as the world’s greatest cover band. They just happen to do a lot of Weezer songs.

There’s nothing wrong with being a cover band. People have made careers at being a cover band. People that go see cover bands have fun and they sing along to songs they know. You get some beers, you have some laughs, you sing along to “Take On Me”. It’s a good time.

It’s just that there’s something off about that. Putting together an interesting live show, and Weezer certainly did that with the barber shop quartet and the pyrotechnics and the dinghy and the AV Club television that malfunctioned and so they had to use a phone from an audience member only the audience member played the video for “Say it Ain’t So” instead of “Pork and Beans” and the midget and the broom (okay, the last two things were Homer Stokes, but it is a well run campaign) are all things that show the effort and work ethic Weezer has, it just, it feels so glossy and uncaring.

I don’t want covers. I don’t want a well run show. I want art and I want emotion and I want to feel the things I felt when I sat in my room as a lonely teenager and I cried thinking about the possibility of loving someone or something so much that it was the very marrow in my bones. I don’t want a band doing a cover band version of that.

But, this is Weezer’s job. This is what they do for a living. And, like a lot of jobs, I just don’t get the feeling this is what they want to be doing. I feel like they want to be playing D&D and listening to Kiss. However, they were on the clock and they’re professionals so they did their job and did it well.

It’s why I was so uncomfortable sitting in the press section. I can’t write like that. I can’t write a workman, punch the clock piece about a band that literally transformed my life then spent the two decades following making me question if those were feelings we were sharing or if they were just doing their jobs then, too. I can’t put aside my feelings to meet a word count and somewhat mechanically try to describe what the show was like so someone can read it and go “oh that sounds like a good show,” and then they move on with their life because it was a good show and then people did move on with their lives.

But Weezer can. They can go out there and play the hits and we can go and we can sing along and Rivers Cuomo can buy vacation homes singing Tears For Fears songs until the day he dies.

I have respect for that. I don’t wish ill for a content creator to get rich of off their labor. It just isn’t going to affect me emotionally like someone actually bearing their soul and that’s what I was hoping for. I was hoping for moments that reminded me of what those songs first felt like. In the end, though, I heard songs I liked and nothing more.

I don’t question the feelings I had and still have for their earlier works. I just no longer think of them as “our” feelings. The person that felt those feelings isn’t the same person and the band that evoked those feelings is no longer the same band. It’s perfectly reasonable for things to change in a quarter of a century. It just sucks to hope for passion and only get precision.

Weezer and I are both in the grownup portions of our lives, where we have to make tough decisions on how to support ourselves and our families. Only they know exactly what they want to be when they grow up and, at almost 40 years old, I don’t. I admire them for that but also miss when their art made me feel things.

I hope that once Weezer hits the “Holiday” portion of their lives, or even the “Only in Dreams” portion, I hope that they feel comfortable with the path they’ve chosen. I hope they have fulfillment. I hope they feel safe. I hope they have found a place where no one cares about their ways.

I hope, I can find that, too.

Also, Blue is still their best album, Zachary.

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