Weezer revisits its beloved first two albums
As a songwriter, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo has a proclivity for reflection.
From the rehashing of a love affair (“The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’’) on the band’s eponymous 1994 debut — informally dubbed the “Blue Album’’ for the background hue of its cover photo — right up through the remembrances of when “Audioslave was still Rage’’ on the recent single “Memories,’’ from its eighth album “Hurley,’’ Cuomo has often sung about going back to earlier times, loves, and experiences.
This retrospective bent has expanded with the recent arrivals of the rarities collection “Death to False Metal’’ and a deluxe reissue of the band’s 1996 sophomore album “Pinkerton.’’
The journey into the past continues on the stage with the “Memories’’ tour, which stops at the Orpheum Theatre with two sold-out shows next Tuesday and Wednesday. Each night will feature a full-album performance — the “Blue Album’’ on Tuesday and “Pinkerton’’ on Wednesday — with only a few overlapping songs.
“The initial idea was we wouldn’t repeat any songs in the greatest hits set apart from ‘Memories’ because that seems like a cool way to tie it together thematically,’’ says Cuomo on the phone from a San Francisco stop of the tour. But once he and his bandmates — bassist Scott Shriner, guitarist Brian Bell, and drummer Pat Wilson — started rehearsing, they realized there were probably some fans who’d want to hear tracks from the album not being featured and perhaps a few of the same hits.
“I think at this point four of the songs are repeated both nights,’’ says Cuomo of the set list. “Some fans who bought a ticket expecting there’d be no repetition at all might be upset, and we’re sorry about that, but we’re just trying to create the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people.’’
That desire is another recurring thread for Cuomo. While some artists as offbeat as the Connecticut-bred Harvard grad often say that their main loyalty is to their own artistic vision, Cuomo is invested in Weezer fans having a good time.
“When it comes to writing songs and making a record there’s no audience, so we’ve always just done whatever the heck we’ve wanted to do,’’ he says of the group’s eight studio albums. “But once you’re on tour and playing in front of five- to ten-thousand people every night, you start taking their needs into consideration. Because if you’re doing stuff they don’t like, they’ll let you know it and it’s difficult to sustain that. And when you do something they like, they let you know that too, and that’s just the greatest feeling in the world. So you can’t help but gravitate toward what your audience wants.’’
Luckily, Weezer fans’ thirst for the earlier material dovetails with Cuomo’s own interest in that period.
“It was a joy working on the [‘Pinkerton’] reissue, listening to those old recording sessions, relearning the songs, and rehearsing them,’’ he says. “And now hearing a hundred percent of the people in the audience singing along to every word is just extremely validating for me, because I remember the reception was very cold when we initially toured those songs.’’
Indeed, the record — a sonic departure from its zippy predecessor — was judged harshly by some critics and embraced by only a small percentage of Weezer fans intoxicated by the “Blue Album.’’ It has grown in stature and popularity in the ensuing years.
Those who loved “Pinkerton’’ at the time, however, were dedicated. Scott Wells , guitarist for Free Energy, the kinetic, Minnesota-by-way-of-Philadelphia rockers tapped to open a handful of shows on the “Memories’’ tour including the Orpheum gigs was one of those fans. “I definitely spent a lot of time with ‘Pinkerton,’ ’’ says Wells. “I remember it just felt wilder than the first one, less tidy, that appealed to me. I remember the guitar playing seemed more off the hook and crazy.’’
As if the reissue and tour were not enough for the “Pinkerton’’ diehards, Cuomo also just put the finishing touches on “The Pinkerton Diaries.’’ The book collects his journal entries, letters, e-mails, photos, and song sketches from 1994 to 1997. “That was a real blast too. Your memory of the past gets very generalized, but it’s nice to go back and look and see exactly what I was thinking in my own words.’’
“I’ve always felt extremely fascinated with myself,’’ says Cuomo with a laugh of his reflective nature. “I think probably a lot of people are that way: Their most interesting years are in their teens and 20s, and those stories stick with them for the rest of their lives.’’
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.