Weezer and Panic! at the Disco master people-pleasing pop-rock

Source: Weezer Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/p/BIXt49LgcZh/
Source: Weezer Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/p/BIXt49LgcZh/

Despite a “technical delay” that pushed Weezer’s entire show at Deer Lake Park last Thursday ahead by one hour, they, along with openers Panic! at the Disco and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, won over the increasingly frustrated crowd with the greatest of ease.

The event’s Facebook page instructed that no line-ups were allowed before 8 a.m. I’d never seen that kind of note before, so I thought, “I know Weezer’s popular and haven’t played in Vancouver in at least six years, but are they really that popular?” Well, according to what I overheard in the crowd, some people did camp out that early. But judging by the three-to-one PatD-to-Weezer t-shirt ratio, maybe it was PatD that was “really that popular.”

This show had the craziest line I’d ever seen at a non-festival concert. An-hour-and-a-half before doors were originally supposed to open, the line already coiled two or three times; figuring out where it ended required some wandering around and asking security. (Although, each security guard had a different answer for everything that day including the mandatory bag check and will call.)

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness were saddled with the difficult task of lifting the mood of the grumpy, cranky, and downright pissed off crowd that was left to bake in the sun for a whole extra hour. But from the moment the band walked out to the Price Is Right theme, everyone was on their side.

With zero delay, McMahon & co. jumped into 30 minutes of brightly spirited, piano-driven rock. McMahon could barely stay seated at his ivories, singing as he paced the stage and descended into the crowd. “We had some drama, but we’re glad we made it,” he said, vaguely alluding to the evening’s “technical delay.” As everyone clapped along to every song, marked out for the four Air Dancers that shot up at multiple points throughout the set, and reveled in the gym parachute that he brought for the often overlooked audiences at the back, it was clear that they too were glad Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness made it.

As much as the crowd dug McMahon, he barely moved the needle compared to the seismic reaction that Panic! at the Disco caused.
The crowd could not contain their energy. Even a low-flying gaggle of geese that appeared before PatD took the stage got a huge cheer (though possibly because minutes earlier, the crowd randomly started singing “O Canada”).

Love PatD or hate them, it’s easy to see their appeal: a bunch of handsome, well-dressed (mostly suited) lads; songs swollen with energy, made for chanting or singing along to with oodles of falsetto “oh”s, “whoa”s, “ah”s, and “yeah”s. The band is fully aware that any song with the word “hallelujah” in its chorus is an instant live hit. They know that covering the most beloved classic of classics, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, guarantees a massive pop and sing-along. Vocalist Brandon Urie is a consummate showman, holding a pose as the music pauses before nailing a perfect backflip with volleys of smoke shooting up from the stage the moment he lands. Although he mostly sang, he showed off his multi-instrumental talent, taking to a piano elevated above and behind the drums and later playing tandem drums at a second set of skins that the crew wheeled out. PatD also preaches sentiments that everyone can get behind: Be yourself! You are who you are! Support your friends who have addictions!

It was almost formulaic how PatD knew how to please the crowd. But whether you look at that as a negative or a positive, it’s undeniable: they’ve mastered the performance game.

I never thought I’d need earplugs because of fans, and not just to block out incessant vapid chatter. But the crowd was so frenzied, they often drowned out PatD’s anthemic pop-rock. I felt as if I was in the pit of a pop star’s arena concert the way the overwhelming majority of the crowd (underage girls) fanned themselves with their hands (the volume of the response when Urie popped off his shirt like Dennis Reynolds made me flinch), waved their arms in the air for most of the set, and sang everysingleword. Their jaws drilled through the ground when the band flung guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd.

While PatD are bit too glossy and full of easy thrills for me, I was in the clear, clear minority. They know who their fans are and know every way to please them. And I have to give them due credit: PatD are airtight musicians.

 Weezer, on the other hand, were far looser – so loose that it seemed as if they deployed copious beach balls during “Hash Pipe” to distract the crowd from how sloppy the band was. Their spottiness was particularly noticeable on “Beverly Hills”: both the talk box and guitar solos wilted with missing or partly inaudible notes. Most of the backing vocals throughout the set were difficult to hear too, which was especially problematic because Weezer are a very harmonic band.

No matter how many props they brought out – American and Canadian flags, sombreros, leis, streamers, blasts of confetti – they couldn’t cover up their musical potholes.

The band shed more light on the night’s delay, informing the crowd that the show almost got cancelled because the stage nearly collapsed during rehearsal. But despite being pushed ahead by an hour, Weezer were still 18 minutes late, appearing at 9:43 p.m. Yet they finished 10 minutes before the 11 p.m. curfew, an unfortunately (or at least unusually) short set for a highly anticipated, long-sold-out, headlining show. Maybe they played so many medleys, unjustly cramming together favourites including “Back To the Shack”/“Keep Fishin’”/“The Good Life”/“Surf Wax America” and “King of the World”/“Only in Dreams”, because the band was crunched for time. Maybe they played sloppily because they were trying to rush through their set list.

 Seeing Weezer live taught me that there’s a line between audience participation and letting the crowd carry the songs. Usually, the vocalist leads any sing-along, but Rivers Cuomo opted to let their loyal fans sing most of the lyrics, stepping away from the mic to focus on riffing out with the rest of the band. But I go to shows to see the performers perform everything, not the fans do half of the heavy lifting.

If anyone else felt this way though, they did not let their feeling show. It was still their only chance, presumably for a long time, to sing along to classics that many of them (myself included) grew up with including “My Name is Jonas”, “The Sweater Song”, “Island in the Sun”, “Say It Ain’t So”, and sole encore “Buddy Holly”. The crowd – especially the underage segments – took to Weezer’s latter, post-Red Album hits too. Me though? Let me know when Weezer tours behind The Blue Album’s silver anniversary.

Full Weezer set list:

  1. “California Kids”
  2. “Hash Pipe”
  3. “My Name Is Jonas”
  4. “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”
  5. “Pork and Beans”
  6. “I Love the USA”
  7. “Perfect Situation”
  8. “Thank God for Girls” 
  9. “Beverley Hills”
  10. “Back To the Shack”/“Keep Fishin’”/“The Good Life”/“Surf Wax America”
  11. “The Sweater Song”
  12. “Island in the Sun”
  13. “King of the World”/“Only in Dreams”
  14. “Say It Ain’t So”
  15. “Buddy Holly”
Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu