Ryan Adams v. Weezer

Back-to-back nights at the Bowl brought us shows headlined by Ryan Adams (Thursday) and Weezer (Friday). The first was perfect, the latter a disappointment. I only knew about a third of Adams’s songs, but I enjoyed every one. Scoring a walk-up seat in the center of the sixth row made Adams’s exchanges with the raucous crowd that much more enjoyable. He hardly looks the rock star, with unkempt hair falling over his eyes like a shaggy dog and wearing a Pretenders T-shirt; his music, which he writes, and his guitar playing say it all. I thought I had heard that he could be off-putting in performance, but he was down-to-earth, casual and quite funny. His ballads were warm and soulful and his rockers rocked. Then there were jams, which rolled along like the Grateful Dead. The Independent review today said Adams is playing the best rock in America, and I felt lucky to be there.

I knew more, and expected more, of Weezer, but their music simply didn’t translate to an arena setting. Their tunes are simple, flat ahead, and words are important. Their sound system overwhelmed them, with a humongous woofer shaking the Bowl, and it was hard to hear what they were saying. Their stage presence was static and the visuals behind them trivial. (Ryan Adams, by contrast, used colors and shapes that emphasized his music – above all, “Blue” – whereas Weezer’s pictures distracted.) Not once did I feel transported, and I left the four-hour concert well before it finished and before they played “Buddy Holly.”

Three tall, good-looking women called Nice As Fuck opened for Adams and played an enjoyable set, although much smaller than their headliner. Panic! at the Disco opened for Weezer, and it seemed their fans were more vociferous, if not more numerous. (Weezer attracted a lot of parent-age, memory-laden fans, who were more restrained.) Other than a pitch-perfect rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, their songs were full of energy but devoid of hooks or much in the way of melody. Far more preferable, to my mind, was the neglected show-opener, Andrew McMahon, who played the best songs of the night.

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