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Review: Alt-rock legends Weezer and the Pixies a study in contrasts

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo performs at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, Florida.
Published Jun. 24, 2018
Updated Jun. 24, 2018

A scooter whizzing through the stands. A tear away cardigan. A face smacked by a rogue beach ball. And an intimate, acoustic version of “Island in the Sun” performed in front of thousands.

The show put on by the four members of Weezer, at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater on Saturday, June 23, 2018, brimmed with energy.

They rocked their way through 18 or 19 songs (depending how you count), expertly bookending the set with “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So.” They also tossed in a cover of a well-known song – you know the one.

Oh yeah, and the Pixies were also there.

In this double whammy tour, the Pixies took the stage after opening act the Wombats, putting Weezer in the traditional headliner position.

Paz Lenchantin, bassist for the Pixies, performs at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa Fla. on Saturday, June 23, 2018. It was the second stop on tour with Weezer. [TARA MCCARTY | Times]

To anyone who questioned this arrangement, it was clear that Weezer deserved the headline spot well before the show’s final applause.

For sure, the Pixies helped pave the way for the alt-rock genre in the mid-80s, and perhaps it could be argued that without them, there would be no Weezer.

That being said, it’s been 30-plus years and Black Francis, though focused and ever-talented, was going through the motions. The Pixies’ set of 20 or so songs was enjoyable but also rehearsed. Their set ended with a few waves, a look of accomplishment and a double bow – the neatest and cleanest ending a rock show has ever had.

And that was the extent of their audience engagement.

Then Weezer came out and jolted the crowd with a jauntier tempo. The moment the large, black curtain fell and revealed frontman Rivers Cuomo in a tie and yellow cardigan and the first notes of “Buddy Holly,” the nostalgic haze of pixie dust that hung over the audience was swept away, making room for head bangers and rocker hands.

Throughout the multiple sets and three or four outfit changes (depending how you count), Cuomo gave his all.

“Tampa, you’re kickin’ butt,” he yelled.

He called out a woman near the front who was “screaming at the top of her lungs” who also had gum in her mouth.

“Be careful,” he said. “All Weezer fans must survive the night.”

Then he called for “furious rock and roll.”

Weezer performed at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa Fla. on Saturday, June 23, 2018. It was the second stop on tour with Weezer. [TARA MCCARTY | Times]

And with each of his full body jumps syncopated with slams on his guitar, fans gave back, punching the air to each word in the last line of “In the Garage.” In response, Cuomo helicoptered a custom jersey around his head before flinging it into the crowd.

For his third outfit change, he wore a captain’s hat and a Hawaiian shirt. He pushed his way through the stands on a scooter and, sitting between two straw huts, delivered an intimate, acoustic version of “Island in the Sun.”

Cuomo had the crowd absolutely captivated.

“I’m ready to rock, Tampa,” he said when he finished, “with my acoustic guitar and my electric guitar.”

He took a breath.

“Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.”

A woman in a Memphis Grizzlies shirt leaned back and closed her eyes, singing along to the Oasis anthem. Beyond the jokes and the meme references, hearing Cuomo sing the song was endearing.

That Cuomo would perform covers of Oasis and the Turtles’ “Happy Together” mashed up with Green Day’s “Longview” speaks volumes on how much bands like Weezer are inspired by and pull from others.

Back on stage, Cuomo swapped his Hawaiian shirt for a studded, black leather jacket, prompting a guy in the audience to screech to his friends, “It’s a thousand degrees!”

Weezer performed at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa Fla. on Saturday, June 23, 2018. It was the second stop on tour with Weezer. [TARA MCCARTY | Times]
Weezer performed at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa Fla. on Saturday, June 23, 2018. It was the second stop on tour with Weezer. [TARA MCCARTY | Times]

And so began Weezer’s 2017 sleeper hit “It Feels Like Summer,” a seasonally appropriate song to play two days after the summer solstice. As if it wasn’t hot enough at 85 degrees and a thousand percent humidity, flames erupted in stacks behind the band.

It’s possibly unfair but hard to not compare the back-to-back shows.

Weezer is having a bit of a moment right now due to their cover of Toto’s “Africa” – “We would be remiss in our duty if we didn’t play this song,” Cuomo told the crowd. The cover, of Twitter birth, was the gift the world didn’t know it needed.

Where Cuomo performed with gusto and goofiness and frequently looked for crowd participation, the frontman of the Pixies appeared more focused on his worn guitar than his fans.

But those fans seemed satisfied. In collective acknowledgement of the dream of seeing the Pixies live come true, their slightly bobbing heads created a slightly throbbing crowd.

A scratchy, unmistakable growl. A breeze rippling along with a guitar riff as the sun hung low in the sky. A lean forward in the seat. A few taps on a beer can in time with the music.

Near the stage, a little girl wearing a mauve tank top that said “Weezer” and hung like a dress looked bored.

Contact Tara McCarty at tmccarty@tampabay.com.

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