Concert Review: Teenage Kicks @ The Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto

Most people have a pretty complicated relationship with the records that defined their formative years. This is especially true if the album in question deals with abandonment, crushed expectations, and unrequited love via the tyranny of distance – all of which and more pours out in spades from Weezer’s masterful sophomore record, Pinkerton. If an entirely different band turns out a front to back live take on the record two decades later, with all sorts of youthful memories and expectations from audience and performers alike coming into play… well, that’s a lot of potential weight to bear. Such was the case on Saturday night at the Horseshoe, as local rock mainstays Teenage Kicks gave the entirety of the album a dedicated airing out, rising to the task with energy to spare.

The whole show clocked in at a brisk 50 minutes even with three era-appropriate b-sides tacked on at the end, but that said, the relatively brief quantity didn’t reflect quality at all. Brothers Peter and Jeff van Helvoort lead the four-piece band, the former mostly handling lead vocal duties, in what was pretty well a 300-strong singalong, complete with many members of the crowd even mass humming along the guitar melodies on classics like “El Scorcho” and “Across the Sea”.

The rhythm section was as on point as can be, with the drum sound in particular replicating the expansively boomy production of Pinkerton. Though Teenage Kicks are playing their final show next month (May 23, also at the Horseshoe), there was no semblance of rust or animosity between the band members. They all nailed their parts and simply did justice to a great record.

The only case where the band took some liberties were on main set- and album-closing track “Butterfly,” initially just Rivers Cuomo channeling his inner Alex Chilton with an acoustic guitar and some light percussion. Teenage Kicks expanded the track to fit a full band, with their take serving as a fittingly elegiac closer after the catharsis of the past nine tracks. Opting to encore with Pinkerton b-sides as opposed to following the album up with original material was likely a wise choice – the brothers van Helvoort set a tone and kept it in motion for the duration of the night.

There’s a strange sort of ebullience to Rivers Cuomo’s songwriting during this period of Weezer that directly translates to the anthemic nature of each of the 10 songs on the album, and as a result Pinkerton is the sort of record that remains just as relevant even when its angst may not be as directly appealing as it once was. It’s still a record packed to the brim with great pop songwriting, and its huge riffs and indelible vocal melodies were made for a sweaty club atmosphere. The band opted not to fix what wasn’t broken and so their live arrangements didn’t vary wildly from the Weezer-recorded counterparts, but Teenage Kicks delivered a collective passion which showed their spirit and competence.

For our interview with Teenage Kicks, click here.

Review by Adam Kamin (@A_Kamin)

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