While making their way around the U.S. on a month-long co-headlining arena tour, the Pixies and Weezer came through Oakland, California for an evening at the Oracle Arena with support from Basement.
England’s Basement kicked off the show to a still mostly empty venue. Though the crowd was sparse at the beginning, while everyone was continuing to work their way in through security, the band gave it their all and performed like it was a packed room. Their sound, which has been described as emanating a ‘90s DIY vibe, was a perfect companion to the others on this tour’s bill.
Alternative rock legends, the Pixies took to the stage next and were greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd. A single light fell onto Black Francis (vocals, rhythm guitar) as the first notes of “Cactus” came over the sound system. The band has modified their setlist throughout the tour, selecting a varied set of songs from their lengthy discography, including some from their highly-anticipated and still pending 2019 release, to bring something a little bit different to each city.
Stop spazzing out, just sit still and “Be Here Now.”
Even being familiar with their music and knowing that many of their songs are on the more mellow side, I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed with their performance. During the first half of the set, there was very little interaction between members on the stage or between them and their audience. I’m not a performer, but I can imagine that arena shows are difficult because the artists are distanced from the crowd by a larger margin compared to a smaller venue performance, which can diminish the connection between the two sides and make it hard to feed off of the energy of the audience.
Though the Pixies did not seem very excited to be there (from my vantage point), there was no lack of energy from the crowd during the set as they danced with their neighbors and brought the fun to the arena. Credit where credit is due, the Pixies get props for crafting a set list that gradually and consistently grew the energy in the room. The set began to pick up when they jumped into “Gouge Away” and it brought the crowd to their feet. Rather than putting the audience on a roller coaster of a ride, the set very methodically drew people in slowly and successfully highlighted the breadth of their sound.
The band then started to become more playful both amongst themselves and with the crowd as they continued to cycle through hit after hit. It was fitting that they closed the set with “Gigantic,” as it was the moment that brought the crowd to its peak of excitement. As the last note faded away, the Pixies put down their instruments, came forward together and took a bow. Acoustically, their performance was outstanding; their sound was meant for a large room.
Whatever you think about the Pixies, you can never go wrong with “Here Comes Your Man.”
Weezer emerged in front of the curtain covering the stage, standing at ground level right in front of the first row to begin their set with a barbershop quartet rendition of “Beverly Hills.” The lights cut out and in no time the curtain dropped and they jumped into their first full song, “Buddy Holly.” A couple of songs into the set, a tube TV was theatrically rolled out onto the stage. As the picture flickered on the screen with the music video for “Pork and Beans,” Weezer began to play it. I’m certain there were people in the audience that had never seen a TV like this before.
During a cover of “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, lead singer Rivers Cuomo left his post on the stage and took position on a makeshift boat that began to sail around the edge of the arena floor. With this adventure into the crowd, Weezer made great use of the space and truly connected with the crowd. As soon as the ship landed in the back of the arena technical difficulties set in leaving Cuomo with not one, but two guitars that weren’t working. Thinking quick on his feet, he didn’t miss a beat diving into an acoustic rendition of “Stand by Me.” The audience stepped up for this moment to join him for a beautiful singalong and lit the room with their phone lights.
The surprise of the evening came when Weezer brought well-known and well-traveled drummer Josh Freese out to take over on drums for their last scheduled song of the night, “Hash Pipe.” Weezer went out with a bang with this one and lit up the room (quite literally with flames being thrown along the back of the stage).
Everyone was literally, or figuratively, “High As A Kite” on this evening.