Toronto Has Been Weezered!

Budweiser Stage, July 4

Photo: Tom Pandi

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jul 5, 2023

Contrary to what those first-two-albums-only purists claim, Weezer have released lots of interesting, weird and excellent music in the past couple of decades. Frontman Rivers Cuomo hasn't lost his songwriting spark (which is how we ended up with standouts like 2016's White Album, 2021's OK Human), but he doesn't seem to be able to the distinguish that bad from the good (which is how we got stinkers like 2009's Raditude and 2017's Pacific Daydream).

Thankfully, that wasn't a problem when Weezer swung through Toronto for a night that of pure fan service, highlighting the best of the band's spotty catalogue as they fully embraced their dorkiness. 

The show was part of the band's Indie Rock Road Trip summer tour — strange branding for musicians who have never been called "indie rock" in their lives. Giving the night a bit more indie rock cred were openers Joyce Manor playing their punk and emo-tinged tunes in the early evening, followed by Future Islands soundtracking the sunset slot with wistfully thumping synthpop.

Fearless frontman Samuel T. Herring is the latter band's love-it-or-hate-it element: he danced like Leslie Nielsen calling a strike in The Naked Gun and sang like Kermit absolutely nailing The Phantom of the Opera. He was Jack Black except not joking, single-handedly carrying a set that would have been far too same-y without him. If you've seen the band's iconic Letterman performance, you know what I'm talking about.

As Weezer took the stage to the strains of Toto's "Africa" (which mercifully meant they didn't need to play their cover of it), a curtain dropped to reveal a stage that was designed like the dashboard of a car, with a video screen as the view out the windscreen — a neat motif that gave Cuomo a chance to coax cheers by turning up an over-sized volume knob, and featured lots of nifty highway-themed visuals to match each song.

Any concerns about the song selection in the setlist were instantly dispelled by the opening "My Name Is Jonas," with the early part of the set primarily devoted to '90s highlights: hits like "El Scorcho," the surprise TikTok sensation "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" (with guest singer Serena Ryder absolutely crushing on lead vocals, even if she seemed shaky with the lyrics), and even a few golden rarities like "Long Time Sunshine," "Blast Off!" and "Suzanne." A singalong version of "Undone - The Sweater Song" had Cuomo (who was cosplaying as an indie rocker with skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors) telling the crowd, "Weezer in the house! Toronto has been Weezered!"

Hell, even some of the band's lowlights weren't so bad: "Beverly Hills" is a whole lot more tolerable with a huge amphitheatre screaming along, "Pork and Beans" practically sounded like the band's golden age with some extra "Hey! Hey!" backing vocals, guitarist Brian Bell sold the gimmicky genre exercise "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" with his theatre kid dance moves, and the night's only SZNZ cut was the project standout "Thank You and Good Night."

The very age-diverse crowd's energy was chaotically drunk, turning even the less-famous songs into gigantic singalongs. Of course, it was hard to sing along with the famously inscrutable lyrics of "Hash Pipe" — during which Cuomo clearly enunciated the words "eyes wide" while images of eyes flashed up on the screen, even though I'm pretty sure he sings "ass wiped" on the album version.

It was an impeccably paced set, from the ambient synth jam that led seamlessly into "Perfect Situation" to the way the epic "Only in Dreams" bridged the transition from an acoustic section back into an electric setup. An inflatable sun descended from the rafters for "Island in the Sun," and "Say It Ain't So" was perfectly orchestrated with drawn-out pauses for maximum scream-along catharsis.

Everyone at Budweiser Stage knew exactly where this Indie Rock Road Trip would end up: a set-closing version of "Buddy Holly," which was a perfectly satisfying finale for a show that was a best-case scenario for longtime fans who have stuck with Weezer through the highs and lows.

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