Live at FivePoint Amphitheatre
September 11, 2023 Review by Kevin Gomez
Weezer brought their Indie Rock Road Trip tour to Irvine’s FivePoints Amphitheatre for a completely sold-out show. The alt rock kings were compiling a tour of the United States, highlighting indie and garage punk bands that normally would not have been associated with Weezer. Along the way, stops saw sets from Modest Mouse, Future Islands, Momma, and Joyce Manor. For this weekend’s Southern California shows, crowds were treated to Spoon and White Reaper.
I was pleasantly surprised with White Reaper, as this was my first time seeing them live. As I mentioned, I was not expecting a punk band to be opening the show and it felt like a great way to get the crowd hyped. But, if you’re thinking of sloppy, three-chord punk, these guys remind me more of Gaslight Anthem or FIDLAR. The Kentucky band opened with “Half Bad” followed by “Raw.”
Lead singer and guitarist Tony Esposito dedicated a song to “all the Parrot Heads in the audience” (news had just been released that morning that “Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffett had passed away the day before). “Asking for a Ride” had a hard rock riff and a sweet guitar solo outro thanks to guitarist Hunter Thompson. Nick Wilkerson led “Fog Machine” with a great drum solo before starting the song’s intro. Esposito started “Pages” by himself on soft guitar strumming before the rest of the band kicked in to join him. The band ended their energetic set with “Judy French,” a straight-up rock anthem.
For Spoon, a longtime headlining act of their own, it was nice to see them treat the audience to a full, 60-minute set. They used this time for very little banter in between, and instead focused on getting as much rock out as possible to the masses. For their second song of the night, lead singer and guitarist Britt Daniel literally fell to his knees for his solo on “Got Nuffin.” A few songs later, he announced, “In case you didn’t know, we released an album not too long ago (2022’s “Lucifer on the Sofa”). This is from that album,” and they played “The Hardest Cut.” “I Summon You” featured a beautiful keyboard tone accompanied by a lovely guitar riff.
The band welcomed Tony Esposito from White Reaper to play guitar with them for “Rent I Pay.” This was a really cool idea, not only to jam with the opening band, but also I feel like his playing provided a nice edge, adding his heavily-distorted guitar style. In stark contrast was “Inside Out,” featuring a haunting, yet stunning keyboard effects riff from Alex Fischel, who also provided a wicked keyboard solo.
The band played their biggest hit, “I Turn My Camera On,” and even this well-known hit which has been played numerous times, they manage to keep it fresh and exciting by starting it off with a big jam session, making it extra rocking before launching into the tune.
They decided to end their set with a cover – a Cramps cover no less – the song “TV Set” featuring a guitar solo that would make Poison Ivy proud.
Of all the times I’ve seen Weezer, I would have to say this was the best set I’ve ever seen them perform, visually, musically, from every aspect. Their set featured an elevated second story where drummer, Pat Wilson sat. The elevated space was made to look like the dashboard of a car, playing up to the theme of Indie Rock Road Show, complete with steering wheel, speedometer, and most importantly, car radio.
The screen behind them was projecting a continual video in the background with a rear-view mirror and windshield, and all of the scenery and images was specific to each song they played, while still appearing to place you in a road trip looking out the front window. The set design alone was so intricate and fun, the time, money and effort that went into it was spectacular. The artist(s) involved deserve a kudos and moment of recognition.
The band kicked in with “My Name is Jonas,” a perfect introduction as this the very first song off of their debut self-titled album, often referred to as “The Blue Album.” Guitarist, Brian Bell even played harmonic during the song’s big solo and outro. After “Beverly Hills,” the boys jumped into a rarer track, “Road to Ithaka,” which saw them just completely shred for 90 seconds, even featuring a rare occurrence of bassist Scott Shriner playing guitar on the lower end of his double-headed bass/guitar.
For a long time, the band, especially lead singer and guitarist Rivers Cuomo, shied away from their sophomore effort, “Pinkerton,” which was initially seen as a critical and commercial failure. However, after years of fan support and even critics turning around and considering it some of the band’s best works, it seems that Cuomo is finally starting to soften and recognize the greatness of that album.
And with that, they played an abridged version of “The Good Life” and just a few songs later “El Scorcho,” followed by “Pink Triangle.” Cuomo introduced “Blast Off!” as a song that was initially going to be the follow-up to the “Blue Album” with a space rock opera that was rejected by the band’s label and ultimately led to them writing “Pinkerton,” or as he describes it, “another rock album… well, a pretty great rock album.”
After playing the hit “Undone – The Sweater Song,” they had a short acoustic set. Cuomo played “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” by himself before welcoming Bell on guitar and vocals, and Shriner on vocals alone for them to do the “Blue Album” B-side, “Susanne.”
Cuomo was left alone to start “Only in Dreams” acoustic on the first verse and chorus before switching to his electric guitar and being joined by the entire band for an incredible performance featuring phenomenal drumming by Wilson. He described meeting a girl at Santa Monica College when he was 21, and a girl who didn’t talk to him until the last day of class who told him, “You look like Anthony Kiedis.”
After she moved away to attend college in San Diego, he wrote the next song on the setlist, “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived,” which Cuomo then donned a black cowboy hat as the screen projected a Mount Rushmore featuring the faces of the four band members.
The band would come back for a short encore leading off with “The Waste Land” and then “Surf Wax America,” but only until the second chorus which then kicked into their final song of the night, “Buddy Holly.” The band would finally leave but not before returning for a hard-earned bow to a roaring crowd.
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