Reviews > Shows
Ween, Kool Haus, Toronto, ON – 7/29
Photo by Sabrina Lantos
With over a quarter-century’s worth of expertly crafted tunes under their belts, Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo (aka Gene and Dean Ween) have etched out a rare and deserved corner of the American musical landscape for themselves and their legion of devoted followers. Without surrendering even a shred of artistic integrity, the long-time friends stand as a beacon to performers who strive for a career rooted in genuine expression. Moreover, their 5-piece touring band has more than enough material to blow the minds of rabid fans across the globe night after night while remaining diverse to a fault. An evening of jubilant genre-bending was all but guaranteed when Ween returned to Toronto.
The early appearance of ‘Mister Richard Smoker’, a jokey number from 1996’s 12 Golden Country Greats LP, was a good sign for the setlist junkies in the house. Indeed, the track selection would prove to be a die-hard’s dream come true. Semi-seldom offerings like ‘Did You See Me’ and ‘Stallion Part 3’ hinted at the treats that Gener and Deaner had in store as the mirthful and hard-rocking set built steam. A gloriously executed cover of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, replete with super cheesy vocals (and facial contortions) from Freeman, kicked the show into high gear.
Having engaged even the bewildered tag-alongs in the audience, the band then shifted into “brown” mode (a term used by the initiated to describe the dirtiest and thus most enjoyable passages in the Ween oeuvre). The conduit for this transition was ‘Reggaejunkiejew’, a driving morsel of psychedelia from 1992’s Pure Guava. Interspersed with bouts of punky trash-talk lyrics were multiple opportunities for Deaner to shred the Kool Haus apart with wanton bouts of distortion. As a thick curtain of smoke bellowed from the back of the stage, Melchiondo commanded the room with his ferocious guitar tumult.
Softer fan-favorites ‘Baby Bitch’ and ‘Birthday Boy’ cooled things off briefly before ‘Dr. Rock’ – possibly the best little-known metal ode of all time – ushered in the home stretch in blistering fashion. Keyboardist Glenn McClelland took over the spotlight for a run through an extended ‘Pandy Fackler’, and the crowd faithfully sang along with Ween classics ‘Booze Me Up And Get Me High’ and ‘Roses Are Free’ before the band finally exited.
Dipping back into the cover-song catalogue with a nod to their Canadian surroundings, the boys belted a rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ to open a three-song encore. A pairing of the twisted ballad ‘She Fucks Me’ and the thrashy break-up dirge ‘You Fucked Up’ closed out the generous thirty-two song set in appropriate form, as both Gene and Dean took their parting shots and appreciatively said goodnight. The aging heroes may not be as spry as they once were, but their live show is as strong as ever. Warts and all, Ween is simply one of the best acts going.
Author’s Note: For an excellent sounding audience recording of the show, click here.
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