Over the Weekend: Ween at Red Rocks
Ween doing its thing (Eric Gruneisen)
Ween, Meat Puppets
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
September 5, 2009
Better than: Seeing Gene Ween play a solo show.
Ween's live shows have always seemed better suited to smaller stages, where the soaring, sharp guitar tones of Dean Ween (aka Mickey Melchiondo, Jr.) and the tongue-in-cheek vocal stylings of Geen Ween (aka Aaron Freeman) don't get lost in excessive space.
Indeed, the band always gives a personalized performance, so the prospect of seeing them in the wide open forum of Red Rocks was somewhat suspect. After the band's show in a small club in Fort Collins and its dual performances at the Fillmore last year, and even after Gene Ween's trio of solo shows in tiny local clubs earlier this year, the grand scope of Morrison's signature stage seemed a bit too epic.
Buy my fears proved unfounded. Neither the packed feel of the 6,000-plus crowd nor the massive scale of Red Rocks deterred from the band's inimitably intimate live show. Dean Ween's solos were just as arresting and Gene Ween's vocals were just as theatric as they've been in any other performance I've seen. What's more, bassist Dave Dreiwitz, drummer Claude Coleman Jr. and keyboardist Glenn McClelland offered their usual brand of solid rhythm accompaniment and impressive solos.
The only complaint by the end of the night was what seemed like the brevity of the show. Even with a set that spanned more than two hours, the band left the crowd wanting more. Maybe we'd been spoiled by two consecutive nights of the band at the Fillmore last year, or by three nights of Gene Ween's solo shows earlier this summer. In the end, we were clamoring for a three-hour stadium show, one that would fit the last gig in the band's latest touring schedule. And any initial worries about the huge size of the theater had morphed into a thirst for a performance that was more epic.
Similarly, the group's performance of the instrumental "Ice Castles" from White Pepper sounded more well-honed and refined than the performance of the tune at the Fillmore last year. The act also found plenty of chances to spotlight the skills of the rhythm section. The introduction to "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)" saw rhythmic interplay between Gene Ween's guitar and Claude Coleman's drums, while "The Mollusk" included exaggerated synth effects from Glenn McClelland's keyboards. Coleman also took the vocals for a performance of the obscure tune, "The Final Alarm."
While the band maintained an intimate feel in spite of the size of the venue, the performance had the inescapable feel of a stadium show at times. Billows of smoke from several machines, as well as carefully coordinated lighting effects, lent the set a theatric sense, while the echo of the massive crowds chants helped put the scope of the concert in context. Before launching into the second-to-last song during the encore, the entire band took a few minutes to gaze out into the massive crowd and marvel at its size. The pause made the audience throw a mass of glo-sticks onto the stage.
In the twenty-song set, Ween didn't include any acoustic songs, an omission that stood out. The set pulled from many eras and many albums, but seeing Gene and Dean play slower songs from 12 Golden Country Greats would have added another dimension to the show. But as the band finished up its encore, any complaints seemed insignificant at best. Offering the full qualities of a grandiose size arena with the approachability of a club performance impossible, but Ween did a pretty damn good job of pulling it off at Red Rocks.
Personal Bias: I'm always fascinated by the group's contemporary live performances of older tunes. At Red Rocks, my ears perked up for the live versions of songs like "Touch My Tooter," "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)," "Pork Roll Egg and Cheese" and "Dr. Rock" from the albums The Pod and Pure Guava.
Random Detail: The merch booths were selling a limited edition poster from the show, one that imitated the cover of Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Depictions of Gene and Dean were in the place of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, while a cartoonish image bearing the head of the group's logo, Boognish, stood in Jimi's place. The poster sold out within minutes after the gates opened.
By the Way: Gene Ween played mandolin during the live performance of "Ocean Man."
09/07/09 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
1. Pork Roll Egg and Cheese
2. Bananas and Blow
3. Now I'm Freaking Out
4. Learning to Love
5. My Own Bare Hands
6. Did You See Me?
7. Transdermal Celebration
8. Take Me Away
9. Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)
10. Woman and Man
12. Your Party
13. Beacon Light
14. Stroker Ace
15. Voodoo Lady
16. Ice Castles
17. Final Alarm
19. Touch My Tooter
20. Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony
21. Ocean Man
22. I'll Be Your Johnny On Th' Spot
23. Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)
24. Buckingham Green
25. Dr. Rock
2. The Mollusk
3. Roses Are Free
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