REVIEW: Rivers Cuomo digs deep into Weezer songbook at August Hall

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Rivers Cuomo

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer performs at August Hall in San Francisco on Sept. 12, 2018. Photos: Steve Carlson.

SAN FRANCISCO — It wasn’t foggy enough in San Francisco for Rivers Cuomo. 

Midway through his 27-song acoustic tour-de-force at August Hall Wednesday night, the Weezer frontman needed a little something extra to set the right mood for rock and roll. 

“I thought there was going to be more smoke up here?” he paused to ask the lighting operator. “No smoke for Rivers.”

He mused plaintively, to the delight of the audience. It may have been a one-off bare-bones gig as he was passing through town for another event the following night, but Cuomo wasn’t going to skimp on doing his songs justice, and that apparently meant more fog was needed (and he got it soon after).

Rivers Cuomo

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer performs at August Hall in San Francisco on September 12, 2018

Further proof that Rivers Cuomo came to rock was the length of his song selection, which was heavy on the older crowd-pleasers and only included a few covers. Yes, he played Weezer’s now-legendary cover of Toto’s “Africa,” which closed the main set. He nearly completely ignored Weezer’s newer material. The most recent original Weezer tune performed was “Pork and Beans,” off 2008’s Red Album.

Cuomo had already gone deep into Weezer’s first two records, pulling out favorites like “Buddy Holly” and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” from its debut record, along with half of Pinkerton when he made the wry observation that he hadn’t played enough of the Blue Album yet. He’d go on to play every remaining song from that album other than “Only In Dreams,” with the help of original Weezer guitarist—and Oakland native—Jason Cropper. Cropper walked on-stage to enthusiastic cheers from the diehards who recognized his role in the band’s most successful period. 

“Jamie,” one of Weezer’s best b-sides (in which Cropper played) was a particular highlight. Cropper, calling himself a member of the Weezer fan club, was having a ball with his old friend, and showed himself to be still very capable of handling the riffs that he helped make famous, such as those on “My Name Is Jonas.”

Rivers Cuomo closed the show with a rousing rendition of the Blue Album classic “Say It Ain’t So,” which finally saw him remove the hat that had been hiding his face in shadows for much of the night. He had teased earlier in the show that he’d remove it “if you’re a good audience.” He hugged fans in the first few rows of the crowd before saying good night.

Follow photographer Steve Carlson at Instagram.com/SteveCarlsonSF and Twitter.com/SteveCarlsonSF.

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