Forty Years, Forty Posts #23

Last night we saw Weezer at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and it occurred to me as we crossed Kellog Ave. from the parking ramp that I haven’t actually seen an “arena” style rock show before. Well, a few basketball arena-concerts, but either the artists were right but the venues were too small to qualify (like Metallica at the UND Field House or Ratt and Poison at the Fargo Civic Center) or the place was right but act was all wrong (nobody thinks Tori Amos is “arena rock”, but I saw her at the Target Center with Alanis Morisette about 12 years ago). My wife and I see a lot of concerts, but this was our first, as she put it, “big rock and roll show,” and I think it’s the only concert I’ve seen that qualifies. Weezer isn’t exactly the prototypical arena rock band, but they have enough ironic heavy-metal posturing to qualify, from Rivers Cuomo sliding-across-the-stage-on-his-knees guitar solos to the huge Van Halen-inspired =W= logo behind them on the stage.

It was a fun concert. When the band brought 40-odd people on stage for a “hootenanny” version of “Island in the Sun,” I liked the fact that they wanted to involve the fans, but was sorry that hearing one of their best songs performed live would be ruined by a noisy gimmick. It worked, though. It actually sounded good! It’ll be another favorite concert memory, although it was surpassed at the end of the show, when the band took a break… a roady came out, set up a record player (my wife thinks it was just a prop) and put on a Weezer LP playing Rivers’ answer to “American Pie,” a tribute to the songs he liked growing up called “Heart Songs.” Just as it got the part about Nirvana, the band hit the stage again. Rivers kicked the record player over and they went straight into a rip-up cover of Nirvana’s “Sliver,” said good night, and segued into the crowd-pleaser “Buddy Holly.” Ah, good times.

I didn’t see a lot of live shows until I moved to Minneapolis. I liked the bands I saw in college — usually they were friends of mine. Sometimes we were lucky enough to see Minneapolis bands like The Gear Daddies, but for that matter, I don’t know if live music is ever more fun than in a cramped little bar (or even a house) where everybody knows each other, anyway.

A few of my favorite shows aren’t even by favorite artists, per se. Andrew Bird at the Cedar Cultural Center, for example. I’d heard his music but never appreciated it until I saw him perform live with Martin Dosh, the two of them managing to create a lush, orchestral sound all by themselves. I now consider him one of my favorites, but when I went I was just indulging a whim of my wife’s. Ani DiFranco is a boring performer on disk, to me, but lights up a room with her presence and gives a good show. The Dave Matthews Band are far better live than blaring out of stereo speakers. Wilco is great to listen to anywhere, but I marveled at their ability to pull off even stuff from a production-heavy album like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot just by running around on the stage kicking at pedals–it’s like the need to hire a choreographer just to figure out the machinations.

I think my favorite concert moment was hearing Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, and Old Crow Medicine Show in their final encore at the Fine Line a few years ago. OCMS was the opening band, then Gillian and David did their usual set. They all came back for the encore, and performed “The Weight,” as made famous by The Band. The entire audience sighed happily. It sounded more or less like this, which is from another concert, but I think it was a bit more magical in Minneapolis that night.

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