With the euphoria only beginning to fade from the 8,000 punters who attended Weezer’s Blue Album show from the night before, a luckier, smaller sample were gearing up (or carrying over) to revisit the band’s 1996 masterpiece, Pinkerton, as it was given the same live treatment at the ever-gorgeous Palais Theatre.

Nearly 16 years have passed since the four-piece played the Palace, the St. Kilda venue that once stood next door before it burnt down; and time has done little to weather the band’s popularity, or their fans’ passionate devotion.

Before Weezer can teleport everyone back to their golden era however, there’s the matter of their influence. Namely, on opening support act Ball Park Music.

Never mind that the band’s quirky world view has wormed its way into the Brisbane five-piece’s way with a tune (exhibits: ‘iFly’ & ‘Literally Baby’), squint, and band leader Sam Cromack, with his Buddy Holly specs and off-beat charisma, looks the spitting image of the Rivers Cuomo of old.

Their extensive touring has hardened them into an efficient, pop-rock spouting unit, and the same can be said for home-grown absentees Cloud Control.
They are less of a stylistic fit to the headliners, but deliver hearty renditions of  ‘Gold Canary’ and ‘There’s Nothing In The Water’, while a handful of new tunes, whipped up in their two year absence abroad, demonstrates that they’ve not lost sight of what makes them sonically unique.

Excitement begins to build once Rivers Cuomo, donning a maroon cardigan and his thick-rimmed glasses, comes ambling out for his regular pre-show ritual: kicking about a soccer ball during soundcheck.

He doesn’t look – and later, sound – a lick different from the 26-year-old who first penned the tortured masterpiece tonight’s show is celebrating, let alone a seasoned performer north of 40; but it’s proof that time has done little to diminish either’s relevance.As well-oiled/
lit/sounding/intentioned as it is, the first half is merely a stop-gap towards Weezer’s 90s golden age.

Before Pinkerton’s performance, there’s a short set (10 songs, 45min) up front, working backwards through the band’s discography, and – due credit to Weezer – ignores their stock ‘greatest hits’ for more obscure numbers.

Some are welcome – such as the jaunty, Brian Bell-led ‘Keep Fishin’ and live debut of the tender yet overwrought ‘The Angel And The One’ – while others could have made room for stronger material (*cough* ‘We Are All On Drugs’ *cough*).

As well-oiled/lit/sounding/intentioned as it is, the first half is merely a stop-gap towards Weezer’s 90s golden age.

“We’re going to play some B-sides,” notes Cuomo plainly, before they rip into a pitch-perfect take of ‘You Gave Your Love To Me Softly’ and then ‘Suzanne’ – both non-entities to any post-millennium Weezer fan, but you can spot those that know their Angus and Mallrats soundtracks by their disbelieving, mile-wide grins.

Cuomo wonders aloud if anyone attended the previous night’s Blue Album concert, he’s greeted by pockets of cheers before cheekily adding: “I was there too – it was awesome.” To prove it, out comes ‘Buddy Holly’ in all its retro glory.

The quartet then pile onto Pat Wilson’s drums, thrashing foolishly at his kit, before retiring before the big finale.

There was little time for breathless adoration in the intermission, as unofficial fifth member Karl Koch delivered a nostalgic slideshow, featuring archival photos and fascinating trivia surrounding the recording of the iconic album about to be performed.

Koch’s endearing drawl narrates of old venues called Club Dump, photography from filmmaker pal Spike Jonze, and an Aussie tour poster from October 4th 1996 (with support from The Favues and Custard)!

It’s the perfect mood-setter for, as Rivers jokingly calls it, “the greatest emo… indie… rock album of 1996 and all-time!”

However upon its release, that’s the last thing anybody called it.

At the time, Pinkerton was widely panned by critics, with a charge led by Rolling Stone (that’s the Pitchfork of the 90s kids), who dubbed it the second worst album of the year (behind Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase as Koch’s intermission points out).

Many saw Cuomo’s lyrical exorcisms as the whining neuroses of a “juvenile” introvert, whose emotional baggage seemed all the heavier coming from someone who’d earned multi-platinum sales with a song about looking like Buddy Holly in a video that aped Happy Days.

The self-styled ‘geek rock’ of Weezer’s eponymous 1994 debut, singing of sweaters and surfing, was not without its romantic hang-ups, but a darker, irrational shade came lurking into the band’s emotional vocabulary.

Having scrapped Songs From The Black Hole, a sci-fi rock opera (long before Muse made it cool), as weezer’s successor, the pressures of fame and following up their initial success began to take hold.

These common conditions however produced something wholly unique. Between its stormy, squalling guitars, heavier production, and threatening edges, Pinkerton managed to take the quirks, effortless melodies, and structural efficiency of Weezer’s core sound, and explode it outwards into more visceral, and highly cathartic songs of meaningless sex, obsessive romantic disillusionment, and self-loathing.

Pinkerton was never a misunderstood masterpiece, but it’s brutally confessional style was difficult for many accept, including its creators. The album’s mythic status was only enhanced by triggering the band’s half-decade into the wilderness, and nearly twice that time before Cuomo reclaimed what he saw as a vile, public embarrassment.

It wasn’t until 2008 that he, after disowning it for 12 years, joined the fans in cherishing Pinkerton’s authenticity, sheer melodic power, and stylistic influence.

Pinkerton’s emotional baggage is in fact its secret weapon, and for the thousands in attendance tonight, belting along to every word – every moment – it’s that honest articulation of their difficult young adulthoods into shout-along nuggets of aggravated pop that they hold so dear.

Enjoying it means relating to it, and vice versa.

As a banner lowers featuring the album artwork – Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e, Night Snow at Kambara – Weezer lean into the savage frustration of ‘Tired of Sex’, which along with ‘Getchoo’ perfectly displays the tougher, edgier sound of Pinkerton.Pinkerton’s emotional baggage is in fact its secret weapon, and for the thousands in attendance tonight… it’s [what] they hold so dear.

‘Why Bother?’ turns out the first of many huge sing-alongs for the night, proving way back when that there was an arena rock monster buried inside Weezer just waiting to get out.

‘Across The Sea’ is still the most cathartic, if not ambitious song in the group’s catalogue (and that’s coming from a setlist that included ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ – weezer’s own ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’).

Cuomo’s tale of an 18-year-old Japanese fan would be despicably sordid (cue masturbation lyric) if it wasn’t so achingly fragile in sentiment.

A beautiful, twisting narrative, complete with a middle 8 that sprawls through several key changes and scintillating solos before regressing into a childlike state – “at 10 I shaved my hair and tried to be a monk” – before flipping and howling: ‘It’s all your fault mama.” Then the simmering, cathartic coda “As if I could live/on words and dreams/and a million screams of ‘how I need a hand in mine to feel’.”

It’s the same wounded sadness that bubbles through ‘The Good Life’, which feigns to be lighter, thanks to its irresistible chorus and anachronistic slang, but centres around the worries of a man in his prime pessimistically deciding his best years are behind him.

If there’s some irony in the 42-year-old Cuomo singing those same words, it’s lost on the audience who are too busy being teleported back to their own youth.

The gonzo ‘El Scorcho’ follows (still the goofy outsider anthem of choice), then the dense double hit of ‘Pink Triangle’ and ‘Falling For You’. Rife once more with self-loathing and, to quote the latter, the “irrational fears” of an old goat fretting “what could you possibly see/in little ol’ three-chord me?”

The answer is: plenty. Every guitar part, thundering drum fill, and dense, unspooling shift and nuance is delivered with gnarled perfection, striking the balance between angst-channelled drive and flawless tribute.

Having hurt his leg earlier in the show, Cuomo hobbles towards his acoustic to deliver ‘Butterfly,’ the equally injured finale to the emotionally raw saga.

After the stark finale, an encore of the deliberately saccharine ‘Island In The Sun’ seems almost rude, but it serves to show how unique a record Pinkerton truly is.

A rare masterpiece that Weezer will likely never again replicate, let alone best; and for the audience who got the chance to witness something they never thought they ever could – even if it’s for the first and last time  – they leave in their wake a perfect night of wish fulfilment.

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