It’s a weird moment, achieving a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in nearly 10 years with a cover of Toto’s 1982 hit “Africa,” but that’s where we find our protagonists Weezer here in 2018.
The group is too good to be playing covers, yet that’s exactly how they satiated close to 20,000 fans gathered at Mansfield’s Xfinity Center on their joint tour with Pixies last night (July 17).
Five years ago, if someone said that Weezer’s draw in 2018 would a be cover the Toto tune — and not a new album — no one would have believed them. But times are strange for mainstream music. Every track of Drake’s new album Scorpion just landed on the Billboard 100, plus another two tracks with Drake involved, for a record-breaking total of concurrent 27 songs on the charts from the rapper — and that accounts for more than the entire genre of rock put together. The remaining space leaves little room for more rock breakthroughs, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that most stadiums aren’t booking rock acts that aren’t dad rock… and Weezer are not getting any younger.
The band, however, remains too cognizant to lapse into the category. Their “Africa” cover, albeit fan-requested in the midst of the song oddly resurfacing, demonstrates a good grasp of our meme-loving reality. They even possess the keen self-awareness to know that the majority of what people want to hear is from 1994, and also that they have little interest in their tepid new release Pacific Daydream from 2017.
With a hyper-focus on a “best of” reel of their 20-plus year career, plenty of fringe goodness was trimmed from the set; “Thank God For Girls” and “Troublemaker” being perhaps the most notable omissions (both were deemed set-worthy just a year ago at Boston Calling). Weezer were apparently too beat for “Tired of Sex,” but the satisfaction of them instead slipping into “El Scorcho,” penned in Cambridge in 1996, didn’t go unappreciated.
The main thing making the outfit look like a dad rock band is their actual outfits. Cuomo sporting a “Buddy Holly”-era sweater and tie doesn’t help matters, but it’s also important to consider that shy guy Cuomo probably was born into this world wearing a sweater, tie, and thick set of spectacles. And, of all the things to blow a big-band budget on, Cuomo elected to use it on a tacky Party-City-lookin’ sailor suit and boat-shaped float to use to perform an acoustic version of “Take On Me.” This dude has exuded grandpa energy since he was roughly 25.
The White Album went noticeably missing from Weezer’s discography rainbow, although their Red and Green records bled through amongst “Pork and Beans,” “Island in the Sun,” and “Hash Pipe” (in which Cuomo still pronounces “eyes wide” like “ass wipe,” btw). More than anything, fans were hearing Blue all night, combining to form an enormous chunk of the group’s set — which, when you consider that somehow a-ha, Green Day, The Turtles, and Nirvana got their cover moments, it left precisely 10 albums to be split amongst 11 songs. Aside from “Feels Like Summer,” Weezer didn’t touch anything that came after 2009’s Raditude.
Pixies spread things out more evenly, grasping onto the novelty of 2016’s Head Carrier, although they too chose to scrap an album or two, this time targeting 2014’s Indie Cindy. The band formed four epic silhouettes of Boston rock history, and while their notoriety is largely built upon their original lineup, new bassist Paz Lenchantin remains the most interesting aspect of the group in their modern renaissance.
They can churn out “Where Is My Mind?” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” a million times over and Massachusetts will lose its shit over the local royalty, but the fact that they replaced Kim Deal — and replaced her more than adequately — still rings out as its own feat. The Argentine American breathes a certain life on Dolittle that allows the group’s standout album to sound untouched by a stranger and yet recharged at the same time, all via nothing more than four strings, a mic stand, and an outpouring of gratitude towards Deal.
When paired with the goofiness of an all-the-rage cover of Toto’s one hit, the mindsets of the two groups form a neat little divergence in our space-time continuum. For all the signs that Pixies are cemented in the present, it’s clear that Weezer would rather it be 1994 — as do their fans.
It’s a perfect situation for modern dad rock if there ever was one, but as long as the band keeps blessing the rains — even facetiously — they can keep their street cred from being undone like Cuomo’s favorite cashmere sweater for few more years.