By Martin Cizmar
OK, I admit it, I’ve been neglectful of my old friend Rivers Cuomo. I haven’t really paid much attention to Weezer since The Green Album and I haven’t seen him since 2002, when I went a couple shows to see The Strokes, who I was spending a lot of time with at the time, open for him. As far as I knew, though, Rivers was still a little nutty, in a harmless sort of way, but seemed like a pretty cool dude. I wasn’t in touch much, but hearing the singles off the last three albums filter through the radio, it seemed like things were pretty normal. Rivers was doing his thing, I was doing mine, everything was cool. We weren’t close, like we had been back in my high school days, but I had no reason to suspect he'd fallen on hard times.
So Saturday night’s State Fair show came as quite a shock to me. Seeing his ridiculous mustache and the band’s matching red warm-up suits concerned me, but nothing gelled until I watched Rivers ride through the crowd on a security guard’s shoulders, an idiot grin stretched across his sweaty face, while some other dude in the band sang every word of “El Scorcho.” I looked over at our web intern Yvonne, sitting next to me as Rivers galloped by on his human horse, then put on a cowboy hat upon returning to stage. “He’s totally batshit crazy,” she said.
Before the end of the night Rivers was saying things like: “After the havoc that I’m gonna wreak, No more words will critics have to speak… Oh baby, I’ve been told I’m goin’ crazy/Oh baby, But I can’t be held down...” Then he started yelling “I Am the Greatest Man that Ever Lived” over and over again. Yikes.
So, like I said, I should have been paying closer attention, I know. Still, I can’t figure out what the rest of you, the ones that are still close to him, are thinking. I mean, last night it wasn’t immediately obvious something was wrong, but starting with opener “My Name is Jonas” and that beloved Pinkerton tale of doomed love “Pink Triangle,” things were a little off. The band was wearing shapeless white space-age scrubs and standing against a white background for the first three songs, the songs photographers are allowed to shoot. That was pretty weird.
I was a little put off by the fact that other dudes in the band were singing so many songs, but it didn’t seem like much until the “El Scorcho” incident. I know Rivers has always been a little weird about performing stuff from his masterpiece, but I never thought it’d get this bad. Then there are all the songs about drugs: “Dope Nose,” “Hash Pipe” and, of course, “We Are All on Drugs.”
A cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time” was also peculiar – not only because it’s long and boring, or because the band didn’t do anything more than play a karaoke version – but because Rivers played drums while some other dude sang.
There were a few great moments at the end of the show, where I saw that charming old friend emerge, like when a group of 30 or so locals went on stage with a variety of instruments – everything from flutes to a didgeridoo – to play “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills.” Interrogating one of the young players about the difference between a glockenspiel and a regular xylophone, Rivers sounded like a high school teacher – in the good way.
Not having focused on Weezer in awhile, I hadn’t noticed how many of band’s newer singles – played live they sound pretty much exactly like they do on record – are about getting famous. “Pork and Beans” and “Troublemaker” are great songs, but the lyrics are far from his clever and vaguely introspective early stuff. Then there’s “Beverly Hills,” a sing-along that closed the night. I’d never bothered to listen closely, but it’s a pretty inane song, lyrics that’d get any pop princess mocked if she sang them.
The third encore was equally odd, starting with a cover of “Sliver,” a relatively obscure Nirvana song off Incesticide, which Rivers played wearing a Motley Crue shirt, then finishing with “Buddy Holly,” a song I assume the gradeschoolers in front of me first heard on Rock Band. Weezer sounded good, but something was a little off.
So, like I said, I don’t know how many other people noticed, but Rivers really seems like he’s losing it. Maybe the fact that his band is playing a State Fair got to him, or maybe it’s all the drugs. We’re not that close anymore, so I don’t know what I can do, but surely someone out there can sit him down for a talk. He’s a cool dude, I’d hate to see him hit bottom.
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Photos by Yvonne Zusel