Concert Reviews

Review: Ween at the Fillmore Auditorium, 12/30/11, Night Two

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Early into the set, Gene Ween picked up his Martin acoustic and Dean hoisted a Gibson emblazoned with the image of Boognish set behind a sunburst. With the rhythm section maintaining their regular duties, the band launched into acoustic versions of songs like "Joppa Road" from Chocolate and Cheese and "Flutes of the Chi" from White Pepper.

The acoustic rendition of "Drifter in the Dark" provided one of the evening's most fun moments, as Melchiondo and Freeman morphed the song from Chocolate and Cheese into a honky tonk cowboy ballad, a loping tune complete with a Gene Ween harmonica solo that inspired most of the audience to sing along.

Still, it was hard to ignore the more expansive, more focused feel of the evening's longer, instrumental numbers. Dean Ween's speedy solos seemed to find more feeling and direction on Friday night -- even his frenetic solo during the brief, punk-inspired rocker "You Fucked Up" took on a sense of urgency. For his part, Gene Ween had moments of instrumental depth, taking the solo for "I Don't Want It" and offering one of the highlights of the evening.

Those more serious musical stretches found a nice balance in early songs like "Sketches of Winkle" and "Big Jilm," but even the selections from the rawer era of the band's catalogue seemed expanded. There was Coleman's hand drum solo on the formerly simplistic "Never Squeal." The song "I Can't Put My Finger On It" performed during the encore took the dynamic of the live version from Paintin' the Town Brown -- over an instrumental intro that was downright Middle Eastern, Gene Ween sang wordless, emotive vocals worthy of a mullah calling the faithful to prayer. While the set ended with the straightforward songs "Captain Fantasy" and a stirring rendition of "Baby Bitch," those extended stretches were impossible to forget.

It seemed as if Ween chose the second night of its three-night stretch to flex its improvisational and instrumental muscles, to revel in the jam side of its live identity that's developed more fully in the past decade. With one night to go, the set left unanswered questions: Will New Year's Eve feature similar forays into the abstract? Will the final night of their ambitious Denver series veer from any repetition, as Friday night's show did? How deep will they dig into their catalogue to keep the stretch of concerts distinct and fresh?

It should be fun to find the answers on the last night of 2011.

Click through for Critic's Notebook and full setlist.

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A.H. Goldstein

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