Saturday, July 13, 2024

Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer bring 90s Nostalgia to the UK

Although on paper an unlikely duo, the combination of grunge rock legends Smashing Pumpkins and upbeat pop-rock Weezer bring an array of colourful and nostalgic hits to a captivated audience, with a surprising crossover of fans. It’s one of the few successful gigs at the notorious Co-op Live, Manchester’s newest arena perhaps most known for an unfortunate amount of cancellations. But tonight is no disappointment, as both bands not only show up physically, but deliver a three-and-a-half-hour combined performance with unexpected moments and a solid number of hits.

As a co-headlined tour, Weezer manage an impressive 20 songs and open with Blue Album melodic favourite ‘My Name is Jonas’, echoing the fluttery and intricate guitar riff through the giant arena. ‘Beverly Hills’ is acutely renamed ‘Manchester Hills,’ although nowhere near as glamorous as umbrellas are confiscated at security. Red Album banger ‘Pork and Beans’ (no pun intended) is reminiscent for those of us in the early YouTube meme era of 2008, and singalong anthems continue with the likes of feel-good ‘Island in the Sun’ and ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’

Frontman Rivers Cuomo sounds identical to records released decades ago, as the Blue Album celebrates its 30-year anniversary and dominates the setlist, with seven out of ten tracks played. Weezer showcases their ability to match the grunge-rock ambitions of their co-headliners with gritty ‘Say it Ain’t So’ and ‘Hashpipe’. Unexpectedly, the four-piece performed Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin,’ a nod to Billy Corgan as the writer. In the hour-and-fifteen slot Weezer packs in a solid array of crowd-pleasers, early-year hits such as ‘Burndt Jam’ and ‘Pink Triangle,’ and newer releases from the SZNZ collections ‘Run Raven Run’. Overall, it was an exciting start to the night as Weezer proved themselves capable of commanding a crowd of this size.

The Smashing Pumpkins are timely to the stage, opening with heavy, industrial rock ‘The Everlasting Glaze,’ gliding straight into ‘Doomsday Clock’. The several-minute drum solo showcases Jimmy Chamberlin’s relentless energy and precision and makes us appreciate how far and few between drum solos are these days. The set is an interesting mix, dominated primarily by 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness alongside 2023’s Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts, perhaps attempting to convince us their new music is worth playing as much as the old. Nevertheless, they deliver on crowd-pleasing classics, namely ‘Today,’ ‘Tonight, Tonight,’ ‘1979’ and ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’.

Visually there isn’t much on offer, as the minimalist stage setup is reminiscent of much more intimate, smaller venues, rather than the monstrous Co-op Live. Blinding lights in combination with abstract wall projections add to the psychedelic and nostalgic feel of a pre-LED screen era, which may well have been their intention but probably left those in the back feeling disconnected. The Pumpkins’ unique sound deserves more fitting visuals.

The set has a somewhat inconsistent flow, especially towards the latter half. Fast-paced, aggressive ‘Jellybelly’ is followed by dreamy, psychedelic ‘Rhinoceros,’ before embarking on a ten-minute experience of the live-only track ‘Gossamer’ which mixes into Corgan’s ‘The Spaniards’. While this sequence pleases die-hard fans, the stretch risks losing momentum into what has already been an hour-and-a-half set. Corgan acknowledges the “spiritual journey” he’s taken us on, hoping we’re still with him- though just barely. Thankfully, we end on a high note with the iconic ‘Cherub Rock,’ marked by its distinctive, cascading guitar riffs and melodic hooks. Everyone in their ‘Zero’ shirts hollers in unison as the set closes with the two-minute hard-hitting distorted track, which highlights The Smashing Pumpkins’ raw and unapologetic approach to alternative rock.

Despite disjointed transitions, there are many moments of sheer brilliance packed into The Pumpkins’ set, and their longstanding endurance is fair justification for them being able to perform whatever they like with confidence (and some ego). Overall, both Weezer and The Smashing Pumpkins deliver a varied, memorable sound, and true alternative rock nostalgia. Many in the crowd will have enjoyed stand-out hits for many decades, and likely decades to come, as the packed arena is a true testament to their longevity.

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