Three songs into Weezer’s Friday-night set for Rolling Stone’s Rock Star Weekend at the Mirage Las Vegas, singer Rivers Cuomo voiced some curiosity about the crowd in front of him.
“Who are these people?” Cuomo said, gesturing towards the audience while the opening guitar lines of “Undone — The Sweater Song” drifted from the speakers. “Are you guys rock stars? Are you Rolling Stone journalists? Are you Weezer fans? Are you gamblers? Are you partiers?” He paused, seconds before the chorus kicked in, and added, “Alright, that completes my survey.”
Whoever it was in the crowd exactly — many young, fashionable couples getting a charged start to a night on the town — they were plenty receptive to Weezer’s participation-heavy, hit-after-hit pep rally. Over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, a bespectacled Cuomo worked himself into a sweat, clamoring to all corners of the casino’s courtyard stage. The show’s low-budget accoutrements were inspired: Toilet-paper rolls were hurled, beach balls were batted and a trampoline in front of the drum kit got a good work-out. Also, bassist Scott Shriner wore a kilt.
It makes a some sense that Cuomo would scrutinize the people who had come to see him. After all, Weezer’s sweet, guitar-glorifying anthems serve as a bridge between their famously reticent, Harvard-educated front man and the pop-loving masses. Last night’s performance showed that Weezer’s mission isn’t merely to capture the attention of the crowd. Instead, it’s to become one with them.
By the time the band arrived at “My Name is Jonas,” the first track off of their first album, Cuomo had already scaled speaker stacks and swiped fans’ cameras to turn their lenses back on the crowd. But he took the sing-along about workers, foremen and commutes as an opportunity to double down on the audience involvement, whisking himself through the crowd to sing from a ledge halfway between the stage and the back of the venue. “Beverly Hills” followed, and Cuomo went even deeper into the human crush as he delivered his lyrics about living the low-class life while wishing for glitz. Before he sang the first verse to the MGMT hit “Kids” from a riser in the middle of an ecstatic cluster of concert-goers, he had already given out a round of hugs. The point was clear: Rivers Cuomo is man of the people.
Like Las Vegas itself, Weezer has their form of entertainment down to a science. As it has in concerts for more than a year now, the band’s MGMT cover came mashed-up with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Cuomo donned a blond wig midway through the medley and then played dead on top of the drum kit as the song ended. For the last part of “Perfect Situation,” Cuomo farmed his vocals out to the audience, commanding them with a symphony conductor’s hand motions. The one track in the set list that might come close to qualifying as a “deep cut” — one, in other words, that hasn’t dominated radio charts yet — was “Unspoken,” which Weezer gave its live premier last night. It also had the distinction of being the only song played from the brand-new Hurley.
In the limo from the concert to Rolling Stone’s Hot Party at the Mirage’s JET nightclub, Cuomo reflected on the performance. “Tonight’s show was cool because it wasn’t the usual Weezer crowd,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out who the heck the people were. It seemed like a lot of Vegas high-roller types who probably don’t listen to Weezer most of the time … But by the end of the set everyone was screaming, going crazy, having fun. I love being able to help people let go.”
Weezer staked out a booth at the party, which included Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, Jackass’s Bam Margera and The Hills star Whitney Port, who nuzzled with her boyfriend, Ben Nemtin of The Buried Life, in the VIP section of the club. Glittering beats, courtesy of the Swedish House Mafia DJs, pounded. It was a chance to unwind, but Cuomo, for all his sweating onstage, seemed as if he was ready to perform all over again. “It’s not work,” he said. “It’s play!”
“Undone — the Sweater Song”
“Surf Wax America”
“Say It Ain’t So”
“Island In the Sun”
“My Name is Jonas”
“Pork N’ Beans”
“Kids”-“Bad Romance” cover medley
(Rivers plays dead)
“If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)”