Weezer and the Pixies brought contrasting crowd-pleasing sets to the nearly 20,000 people who packed into Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Saturday night June 23rd. After a brief opening set by the Wombats, iconic Boston rockers the Pixies tore through a fiery set that showed why they have influenced so many alternative acts. With their unique blend of punk, surf, and pop, the Pixies delivered an intense, grandiose set highlighting everything the band does well on albums, but better.
Fast songs like “Um Chagga Lagga” were played with a punk rock intensity, Black Francis and drummer David Lovering leading with their high-octane performances. “Where Is My Mind” was the closest thing to a ballad in the set, slowing things down and getting melodic before going back to the vintage Pixies sound. The band’s trademark dynamics were in full force, abruptly alternating between slow and fast, hard and soft, discordant lead guitars clashing with crunching rhythms.
In “Gouge Away,” Paz Lenchantin’s soft bass grooves in the verses slammed into heavy choruses, with Francis and guitarist Joey Santiago laying down the hard riffs. “Bone Machine” showed off a similar dynamic, punctuated with the final line of each chorus, which Francis and Lenchantin sang a capella.
Lenchantin took the lead vocals for the set’s penultimate song, “All I Think About Now,” one of the best recent Pixies songs. They then closed out the set with an explosive rendition of “Debaser.” The Pixies’ performance was passionate and energetic, with Francis’s howls and Santiago’s guitar establishing the peaks while Lenchantin and Lovering’s rhythms keeping the songs grounded. Raw and frenetic, the Pixies careened through the songs on the verge of losing control, in the best possible wayWeezer didn’t come with the same energy or intensity, since their style is much more structured and contained. What they had that the Pixies couldn’t offer, though, was a setlist full of sing-along radio hits. Beginning with four consecutive hit songs – “Buddy Holly,” “Beverly Hills,” “Hash Pipe,” and “Undone” – Weezer came out of the gate swinging for the fences, getting the crowd in full singing mode from the beginning.
A lack of variety hampered Weezer at times, as many of the band’s songs sound similar, but the performance was a good example of well-played alt rock with pop sensibilities. Unlike the Pixies, which had almost no interaction with the crowd, frontman Rivers Cuomo frequently joked and bantered with the crowd. “To the girl singing at the top of her lungs with gum in her mouth, you gotta be careful. You don’t want to choke,” he joked at one point.
The band played music spanning their 26-year career, with a heavy emphasis on the debut Blue Album. After an interesting cover medley of the Turtles’ “Happy Together” and Green Day’s “Longview,” Cuomo hopped on a scooter and disappeared offstage. He then appeared in the crowd, racing through the amphitheater and setting up a small stage in the middle of the venue, giving new fans a taste of front-row seats. Acoustic guitar in hand, Cuomo played a stripped-down version of “Island In the Sun” and a cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall.”
After he raced back to the stage on his scooter, the rest of the band rejoined Cuomo for the poppiest songs in the set, “Feels Like Summer” and the Toto cover “Africa.” During those songs, guitarist Brian Bell and bassist Scott Shriner traded in their axes to play keyboards and synthesizers. Introducing the later track, Cuomo explained, “We would be remiss if we didn’t play this song. This became a Weezer song thanks to a 14-year-old girl’s Twitter campaign.” After an encore, Weezer returned and played “Pink Triangle” and one of their best songs, “Say It Aint’t So,” which is dynamic enough perhaps to make the Pixies proud.