LIVE: Weezer / The Orwells @ O2 Academy Birmingham

By Ashwin Bhandari

The beloved power-pop Californians return to our shores in support of their latest commercial friendly effort – ‘Pacific Daydream.’ Whilst their influence has been undeniable on artists like Brand New, My Chemical Romance and just about every other pop punk band under the sun, they are very much cursed with the fact that their first two records, ‘The Blue Album’ and ‘Pinkerton’, are still regarded to be their best work. This is undoubtedly a frustrating prospect for Weezer, but sadly it’s how the majority of their fans feel. As a result, their post 90’s albums have been very hit or miss, but at least their tenacity to release albums on a mostly annual basis is admirable.

The doors for the O2 Academy Birmingham open at six, giving the most dedicated fans a chance to strategically place themselves on the barrier, and by the time The Orwells arrive at half past seven the intimate venue is almost entirely packed out. Their vocalist Mario Cuomo might share the same surname as the legendary Weezer frontman, but stylistically they dish out a nice blend of garage punk and punk energy. They make the most of the space on stage, but sadly it seems that they’ve fallen victim to the curse of being an opening band that most people here will likely forget about. Those audience members who didn’t get there for doors use their slot to strategically order sizeable rounds of drinks and secure their standing places.

By the time Weezer arrive however, we’re treated to them opening on ‘The World Has Turned And Left Me’, still sounding as angsty and catchy as it did 20 years ago. Rivers Cuomo seems a bit more reserved this time around, focusing far more time on his memorable guitar licks and less time frolicking on his own with just his trusty microphone.  The singalongs to ‘Surf Wax America’ and newer cuts like ‘Calfornia Kids’ are wonderfully satisfying, maintaining a constant wave of positive energy throughout the show. On ‘Pork and Beans’ the band pause the song midway through to replace the line ‘Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the charts’ with ‘Black Sabbath’, a charming touch that shows that Weezer are not merely playing another UK show on an arduous tour.

Following up ‘The White Album’s’ traditional rock formula with ‘Pacific Daydream’s electropop sensibilities may have once again polarised opinions when the singles ‘Feels Like Summer’ and ‘Happy Hour’ were released online, but they clearly can’t be that bad, as fans lap them up with glee and join in with their feel-good choruses. For some reason, Weezer always sneak a modern pop cover into their sets, and tonight we hear a slightly awkward rendition of ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’ by Mike Posner. Of course, Rivers Cuomo can be forgiven for this because of his lovable charm, and fittingly they launch into their set of radio-friendly singles ‘Island In The Sun’, ‘Beverly Hills’ and ‘Hash Pipe’.

There’s always an added element of introspective sadness whenever ‘Say It Ain’t So’ is played live, usually because it’s the last song in their set, but also because it’s one of Weezer’s most hard hitting songs that shys away from their tongue in cheek nature. Rivers Cuomo lifts his microphone stand up towards the audience during the chorus for maximum stadium rock effect, but it’s done with finesse.

As a confetti gun blasts the audience at the end of ‘Buddy Holly’, the neon ‘W’ behind the stage shines even brighter as the house lights come up and the band takes their final bow for tonight. Weezer delivers us a ‘Blue Album’ heavy set, cherry-picking songs from their discography that prove once again why you should never pass up on an opportunity to see the charming geek rock outfit live. Even if their first album is considered to be their best 22 years on, as long as they never grow tired of playing it, that’s all that matters.