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Weezer and the Flaming Lips Joyfully Return to the Nineties

Goofy, nostalgic show highlights both bands' enduring legacies

July 30, 2011 9:10 AM ET
WEEZER flaming Lips
Rivers Cuomo of Weezer attempts to master the signature Flaming Lips space ball.
Photograph by Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Last night, New York's Jones Beach played host to perhaps the most potent blast of 1990s nostalgia ever crammed into eight minutes: Weezer and the Flaming Lips joyfully performing "She Don't Use Jelly" as one giant band, just after Weezer had the crowd screaming along to "Buddy Holly." Both songs (which were released about a year apart in the mid-1990s) have a goofy sensibility and almost feel like they could have been written by the same group, so watching Rivers Cuomo take the line "I know a girl that reminds me of Cher, she's always changing the color of her hair" didn't seem the least bit odd. 

The co-headlining bands had just spent the show, the second in a two-night run with the same set-up, with the other band's gear on the other side of the stage – because every three songs or so, they swapped turns. The arrangement was unusual, creative and could've been a total disaster – but it worked, despite a thunderstorm that threatened to derail the entire thing before they'd even played a note.

Photos: Weezer and the Flaming Lips Share the Stage 

Indeed, minutes before showtime, the vast Jones Beach amphitheater seemed virtually empty. The crowd was huddled inside the grandstand to stay dry in the midst of a powerful rainstorm; lightning in the distance seemed to threaten the entire event. As the bands took the stage, and Cuomo and Coyne stepped inside separate space bubbles and rolled on top of the audience, fans began trickling to their soggy seats. Meanwhile, the two groups jammed away on "Sweet Leaf" by Black Sabbath, a band that clearly influenced them both. 

The Flaming Lips did the first three-song set, and by the time they kicked into "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" the rain had turned into a monsoon. It was the kind of rain that laughs at a poncho, coats your glasses until you can barely see and even gets the money in your wallet wet. The side-stage dancers for the Flaming Lips were all dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz, and it seemed like the many Dorothys were on the verge of being whisked away by a Kansas-style twister. Balloons and confetti were falling everywhere. It was absolute chaos. 

The night looked bleak as everybody faced the prospect of standing in soaking wet socks for the next two and a half hours, but as Weezer hit the stage the rain turned into a light drizzle. By the time they burst into "El Scorcho" the rain was forgotten and the crowd was singing in unison about that  damn half-Japanese girl that does it to Rivers every time.  

Say what you will about Weezer's recent output, but those guys know how to put on a show. Selections from their last few albums are limited to gems like "(If You're Wonder If I Want You To) I Want You To" and "Porks And Beans" and the set leans heavily on early classics like "Say It Ain't So," "My Name Is Jonas" and "Surf Wax America." They even brought out their stellar cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," brining the evening's 1990s nostalgia level to dangerous levels. Cuomo bounces around the stage a sense of joy that he never seemed to possess in the group's heyday. It's no wonder they've been so active these past few years.

The Flaming Lips had a tougher job because they were playing to what was clearly a majority Weezer fan audience. They even had to endure some obnoxious "Weezer! Weezer!" chants between songs. Focusing their set on long, spacey numbers like "Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung" and "Worm Mountain" didn't help their situation, though even an attempted crowd sing-along on "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1" didn't quite take off like it usually does. Still, the beauty of this set-up was that fans of either band never had to wait more than 15 minutes for the baton to get passed – and absolutely no one seemed bored during a spellbinding "Do You Realize?"

There's probably a reason this set-up has never been attempted before. It doesn't allow either of the group's to build up much momentum, even though the changeover between acts was often less than 30 seconds. Still, the sheer novelty factor alone made the evening an absolute blast, regardless of the rain. It all wrapped up with "Undone (The Sweater Song)." Cuomo sang most of the song while standing on a chair about 20 rows into the audience, as Coyne perched himself on the shoulders of a man in a bear costume as he shot confetti into the crowd.

It was, without a doubt, one of the most wonderfully bombastic conclusions to a concert I've ever seen. It'll be interesting to see whether the band's decide this kind of show is worth repeating. 

Related
Video: Weezer Cover Radiohead's Paranoid Android
Photos: Weezer's Rockstar Weekend set at the Mirage Las Vegas
Video: The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne Shows Off the Band's New Gummy Skull – With Songs Inside

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