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Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of Weezer, performs a solo concert at Beat Kitchen, Tuesday night, April 11, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Rivers Cuomo solo gig at Beat Kitchen a very un-Weezerlike, no-frills affair

“Why the hell am I in Chicago?” Rivers Cuomo asked at one point during a rare (and not fully unexplained) solo stop at the Beat Kitchen on Tuesday night. “We don’t know!” someone in the wall-to-wall crowd of a couple hundred fans screamed out in response.

Unlike the last time Weezer played Chicago (in July 2016), the band’s lovely, affable frontman was a solo, no-frills attraction on this night. No light show spectacular, no opening band and no backing band for the intimate and sold-out show. It was just him, an acoustic guitar and a puffy jacket he didn’t feel comfortable taking off until the 10th song, after he had officially warmed up, rolling through a number of fan favorites from the “Blue” and “Pinkerton” albums (essentially playing every track from the latter throughout the course of the night).

Perhaps the show was a publicity stunt to garner attention for his first solo attempt, a track called “Medicine For Melancholy,” which was released in mid-March. (He played a similar solo gig in L.A. a month ago). Cuomo tucked the sleepy song toward the end of the set, along with a cover of “Sober” by the band AJR, whose members were also Cuomo’s producers on the new single.

But those two songs, lacking Weezer’s prototypical hooks, fell short of the rest of the set, which was a mixed bag of Weezer’s hits and rarities (including the first time “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” was ever played live) as well as a slew of nostalgic covers that one girl in the crowd perfectly described as her “seventh grade mixtape.” Also included: two Green Day songs and two Smashing Pumpkins songs (which elicited the biggest cheers of the night). “Both the Billies are so awesome,” Cuomo remarked, tipping his hat to alt-rock contemporaries Billie Joe Armstrong and Billy Corgan.

Cuomo deftly held the attention of the crowd — it’s hard to remember the last time an audience wasn’t diligently documenting a show on their cell phones but actually living in the moment. The acoustic sing-a-long was bereft of the potent zeal that makes Weezer so great, particularly the incredible guitar work of Brian Bell. But the crowd didn’t leave Cuomo hanging, filling in with mimicked guitar sounds and harmonizing at every step of the way, to the point where Cuomo had to ask for more in his monitor because the voices in the crowd were so voluminous.

Cuomo was short on talk during the night, other than discussing the time he was kicked out of the choir at Harvard University, promoting Weezer’s upcoming summer tour with The Pixies, and shutting down song requests. After all, the set list was pre-printed on special Chicago-only T-shirts, which will become a sought-after collector’s item — and deservedly so.

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.

Set List:

Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore (REO Speedwagon cover)

Say It Ain’t So

Pink Triangle

When I Come Around (Green Day cover)

Buddy Holly

Island In The Sun

Across The Sea

Today (Smashing Pumpkins cover)

Can’t Stop Partying

El Scorcho

The Good Life

Basket Case (Green Day cover)

Do You Wanna Get High?

Falling For You

L.A. Girlz

(Girl We Got A) Good Thing

1979 (Smashing Pumpkins cover)

Getchoo

Magic (B.o.B. cover featuring Rivers Cuomo)

Medicine For Melancholy

Sober Up (AJR cover featuring Rivers Cuomo)

No One Else

No Other One

Where Is My Mind (Pixies cover)

Tired Of Sex

Encore:

Why Bother?

You Gave Your Love To Me Softly

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