Ween at the Wiltern Last Night


January 29, 2011
The Wiltern

Seeing Ween live is like catching a glimpse of a UFO; you may not be able to describe what you saw accurately, but you know you saw something cool. Add into the mix the elements of no opening acts and Ween's tendency to play for two to three hours straight, and you end up with a singular lunatic musical experience. The New Hope, Pennsylvania-based group managed to sell out (and I mean sell out–you couldn't move) the Wiltern, even without a new album to support. 

Dean Ween has claimed they are/will be recording their 12th album, but no formal announcement has been made. No matter. The Ween faithful would line up to see the band even if they were a bunch of octogenarians who haven't released a new song in decades.

​The first, arguably only, misstep of the evening was a loudly boring run-through of “Puerto Rican Power.” It lacked any semblance of a catchy tune and came off as juvenile in a bad way. Gene really got into, though; he pumped his fist in the air like an old-school rock god, imploring his minions to join him. “Object” improved things immensely, though. The song is slow and deceptively sweet; if you listen to the lyrics, you get the distinct impression the song is about raping and killing someone. Best not to think about it too much, which goes for the majority of Ween's songs.
Around the midpoint of the set, Gene Ween made a surprising announcement: “We have a special guest tonight . . . Mr. David Bowie!”  He pointed offstage and waited a bit, then said, “No, it's cool. I'll sing it.” They proceeded to bring the house down with a shockingly straightforward cover of “Let's Dance,” on which drummer Coleman particularly shone. A far heavier early-'80s song followed: “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead, who also just came through town. Again, it was a faithful rendition, with Dean mentioning his admiration for Lemmy at the intro. Ween reached back to their biggest “hit” single, 1992's Beavis and Butthead-approved “Push th' Little Daisies.” 
“Roses Are Free” is another could-have-been hit and, in fact, has been covered by the likes of Phish. It has a percolating, New Wave-inspired tempo, which juxtaposes nicely with lyrics such as “Resist all the urges that make you wanna go out and kill.” A crowd member threw onstage a joint, which Gene accepted gracefully, saying, “Thanks, we'll smoke this!” The last highlight of the main set was “Ocean Man” from 1997's nautical-themed epic The Mollusk. It's a bright, shiny rocker with fuzztoned lead-guitar licks and rumbly treated vocals the exact opposite of Ween's usual screeching highs. It's so catchy it was actually featured on the SpongeBob SquarePants movie soundtrackwhich goes to prove that children's cartoons are far more subversive than adults think.

​The group left for an extremely short encore break, then returned for a horn-driven extravaganza with “Fiesta.” The Latin-flavored track is light on vocals, but it demonstrates just how wide-ranging their talent and influences are. “Mr. Richard Smoker,” on the other hand, was classic Ween: oddball melody, tight musicianship and seriously sophomoric (and, some would say, homophobic) attitude. 
They concluded the evening with their third cover of the set, again very straightforward and quite telling. “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer capped off the proceedings, and it was a beautiful interpretation. Gene's vocals were lovely, Dean showed off his virtuosic guitar skills, and McClelland precisely spun out the spacy, echoing keyboard tone that dominates the latter part of the song. The loving rendition of a prog classic revealed Ween's true nature; as much as they like to joke around, they take rock music extremely seriously, and it showed tonight. 
Personal Bias: They're from Philly, and they covered three songs I absolutely love.
Crowd: Loyal, loud and prone to smoking weird stuff. The Wiltern's security staff had their hands full.
Overheard In the Crowd: Every lyric to every song by the majority of the crowd. These people are fanatics.
Random Notebook Dump: A guy was helped out of the show for being too messed-up during the second song of the evening. Like band, like fans.
1. “Exactly Where I'm At”
2. “Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy”)
3. “Touch My Tooter”
4. “Even If You Don't”
5. “Freedom of '76”
6. “Spring Theme”
7. “Bananas and Blow”
8. “Spinal Meningitis”
9. “Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?” “Learnin' to Love”
10. “My Own Bare Hands”
11. “The Argus”
12. “Gabrielle” 
13. “Puerto Rican Power”
14. “I'll Be Your Jonny On the Spot”
15. “Object”
16. “Did You See Me?”
17. “Buckingham Green”
18. “Your Party”
19. “Let's Dance” (David Bowie cover)
20. “Slow Down Boy”
21. “Ace of Spades” (Motörhead cover)
22. “Push th' Little Daisies”
23. “What Deaner Was Takin' About
24. “Roses Are Free”
25. “Put the Coke On My Dick”
26. “Ocean Man”
27. “The Mollusk”
28. “Fiesta”
29. “Take Me Away”
30. “Mr. Richard Smoker”
31. “Lucky Man” (Emerson, Lake and Palmer cover)

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