Before Thursday night, I hadn't been to the state fair in close to a decade. I spent most of the day there, frolicking through the bright, bursting animal smells and the tantalizing stench of grease. The whole day was an adventure, filled with overstimulation, unbridled joy, and thoughts of "Wow, this thing that shouldn't exist totally does exist." I even got a hat shaped like a doughnut! It seems like the fair hasn't changed a bit.
I've always wondered about the perspective of the bands who play at the Arizona State Fair. Wouldn't they think it's super-lame? It's not the most modern of venues, and they have to share space with contests for who can grow the most tumor-ridden squash. But then I remembered there was a guaranteed audience and probably decent payment for these shows, so it would probably be a lot of fun.
Weezer also is a lot of fun. It's that band that everyone was into 10 years ago, whether they liked it or not, and its ballads about being an outsider were easy to relate to for a 13-year old like me. Weezer's greatest hits have aged relatively well, but not enough that I've been closely following their last few releases. The band's new album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, appeared to rely heavily on Internet subculture, and when Weezer opened with a track from the new record, it confirmed a return to form. They followed up with "Hash Pipe" and "Perfect Situation."
By this point, it was clear my ears weren't fooling me -- the PA system really was that bad. The whole show sounded muted, like a radio left on in another room. Maybe it was better down on the floor, but we didn't drop extra money for that, so we were up in the bleachers. Regardless, I think the acoustic demands of a concert don't translate well to a venue normally reserved for things like roller derby and car auctions.
Rivers Cuomo, the lead dude, looked great. More like Marty McFly than Buddy Holly (their encore song, which featured a crazy, four-piece drum solo), but still. Cuomo started strumming a tune about the new album art (it was funny), then cut into "Island in the Sun." Next was "Beverly Hills," followed by another new tune, sung by bassist Scott Shriner. But the applause for "Say It Ain't So" was the most instantaneous.
I think the audience was having a swell time, but it was hard to be sure. The band looked bored during their first few songs, but after more people shouted back their 'whoas', they got into it. I'm still not sure if playing the fair is cool or not, but I know this is something like the third time Weezer played this fair, so I hope they enjoy it.
However, after "Undone (The Sweater Song)," a lot of people, even those on the floor who paid extra, started to get up and leave. They had heard all the hits they wanted to hear, so it was back out to the world of repulsive deep-fried experiments, pulsing strobes, and doughnut hats for them.
I'm still tempted to blame the awful sound system. If you closed your eyes, you could easily transport yourself to a dive bar, hearing songs you've heard a million times before. The feeling was actually kind of nostalgic and self-affirming, if that makes sense, but it didn't feel powerful, like you'd hope for at some place like Comerica Theatre or Ak-Chin Pavilion.
Yet, Weezer is the quintessential underdog rock band, so maybe it makes perfect sense for the group to play a place like this. The band's desire to remain humble seems both sincere and accessible. I'd say they gave everyone a fair time. Get it? Never mind.
See next page for Critic's Notebook.
Last Night: Weezer at the Arizona State Fair
The Crowd: The shlubs you see at movie theaters built into malls.
Overheard: "Feel this sheep. Doesn't it feel weird? Why do people make clothes out of this?"
Personal Bias: For better or worse, this show was exactly as exciting as I was expecting. Good thing I'm somewhat of an optimist.
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