Gods of geekdom rule Bender Arena

Remember high school dances? Everyone came back to school at night to find the gym tragically transformed into a ballroom, with the help of tacky streamers, a geeky student band and that unavoidable disco-ball.

Weezer brought this scene back Friday night at the Yahoo! Sponsored “Commercial Sell-Out Tour 2001,” set in American University’s bender Arena. With a stage set that included fake bleachers, paper party streamers and even the ubiquitous disco ball, Weezer transferred its anthems of lovelorn geek-rock to an arena level without a single hitch.

Thanks to a fantastic light show and video screen – projected onto the backboard of a phony basketball hoop to help people stuck in the back of the crowd see – the intimacy usually lost in larger venues remained. The performance was not just smoke and mirrors, though. The lighting and elaborate set simply supplemented an already outrageous stage show.

Weezer’s songs stood up in the arena setting, and the band maintained an intense level of energy while a sold-out crowd sang along to songs such as “Say it Ain’t So,” “Buddy Holly” and “El Scorcho.”

Weezer drew an equal share of its set from its past two albums, 1994’s Weezer and 1996’s Pinkerton, and the band introduced several songs from its new, so far untitled, third record set for release this summer. Most of the new material follows the Weezer style of simple, poppy rock packed with high-pitched harmonies, but “Hashpipe” offered a gruff, harder edge than the band’s past work. The crowd received the new songs well, pleased to have a chance to hear the unreleased work.

Lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s voice was in perfect form, carrying off high notes expertly. The music, especially the guitars, sounded grittier than recordings, harking back to the grunge days of the early ’90s when Weezer hit it big. Breakthrough singles, “Undone: The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly” played back-to-back in the middle of the set, avoiding the rock clich? of making the fans wait until the second encore to hear those yearned-for songs, and taking the focus off past achievements.

Despite the friendly atmosphere, Weezer offered almost no banter between songs, and band members hardly acknowledged the audience’s presence. Still, the crowd did not seem to mind, as bright red bursts of confetti shot from the stage proved more entertaining the chatting.

Midway through the set, Weezer made its most impressive reference to the arena-rock image, when a curtain retracted to reveal a huge letter W – a take-off of the old Van Halen logo – that flashed with rows of red, white and blue light bulbs.

Weezer played a relatively short set, lasting only 90 minutes including an encore, but in that time fans got what they came for. Songs like “My Name is Jonas” and “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly” set the crowd afire, and the en masse pogo shook the room. Both the diehard Weezer fan and the mainstream listener who only remembers the band’s mid-90s success left pleased.

Opening band Ozma played a brief, peppy set of Dandy Warhols-esque rock, including a version of “The Munster’s” theme song. The Get Up Kids, a popular new outfit more often seen in much smaller venues, played their take on the emo rock genre to a crowd that became more violent at times than the Weezer audience ever did.

Ground-level near the stage became unbearably packed, and crowd members unfamiliar with basic moshing etiquette – particularly a large group of bullish boys wearing hats with fraternity letters – created a dangerous scene where someone could have easily been smothered in the infantile melee. Thankfully, things calmed down in time for Weezer to give their own tongue-in-cheek take on arena-rock.

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