Ween Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver BC January 24
Published Jan 26, 2011If you're a Ween fan and have never seen the band live, then you only know half the story. Over their long and storied career, the group have become legendary for their epic live shows, in which they ritually play for three or more hours, often jamming on songs for over 30 minutes. All of this has cultivated a small army of devotees that have been compiling and trading bootlegs of the band's varied live shows during Ween's 17-year existence, not to mention given Dean and Gene Ween quite the reputation.
This type of devotion was witnessed at Vancouver's expansive Queen Elizabeth Theatre, where a crowd packed in tight to see a band who haven't released an album in years, nor given any sign we should expect one. Unfortunately, the audience didn't get the marathon performance they were expecting.
It was clear from the get-go that the Ween's normally elastic-voiced and energetic lead singer, Gene Ween, was having difficulties. In fact, right from the first song, the noticeably aged frontman could barely keep time with his tambourine while the band played in their usual lockstep groove. Crowd favourites like "Mr. Would You Please Help My Pony?", the Dean-led "Piss Up a Rope" and "Bananas and Blow" kept concertgoers jubilant and blissfully ignorant of the mess that was unfolding on stage.
However, as the night wore on, it became clear that Gene was out of it in more ways than one. He barely broke away from a helium-voice and failed to bring out any of his other vocal contortions, which in that past have served as cornerstones during Ween's live sets. Repeatedly sparking up cigarettes, Gene made a complete mess of "Buckingham Green" before sadly sitting on the side of the stage for a lethargic "Mutilated Lips," as his voice continued to break more and more as the show wore on.
The severity of Gene's inebriation was fully revealed near the end of the night when the band promptly left the stage, leaving the singer to perform solo. Lyrics to songs were forgotten and his guitar playing was so awful that he had the crowd wondering if it was a joke. Apparently, it wasn't.
After asking his bandmates to join him back onstage several times during the awkward solo performance, Gene himself left the stage and the house lights were turned on after a mere two-hour set. A murmur quickly washed over the crowd as Vancouver was left wondering what had just happened.