At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Monday, January 24
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall of the Boognish’s lair this morning.
Based on the complete shitshow that was Ween at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Monday, it’s pretty much guaranteed that guitarist Mickey Melchiondo was weaving an impressive tapestry of profanity. And the object of his no-doubt-considerable ire? Well, it wasn’t drummer Claude Coleman Jr., bassist Dave Dreiwitz, or keyboardist Glenn McClelland. Like Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween), they were all total pros, ripping through everything they tackled with devastating precision, whether it was an extra-eerie “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)” or a greased-lightning cover of Motí¶rhead’s “Ace of Spades”.
No, the dude with some explaining to do would be one Aaron Freeman, better known to the good people of New Hope, Pennsylvania, as Gene Ween. Freeman hitting the stage with a hairdo that was a bizarre combination of Edward Scissorhands and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future was the first hint that something was amiss. Clue number two came during the set-opening instrumental, “Fiesta”. As his bandmates nailed every stop-and-start note, Freeman stood there like a drunk simpleton who couldn’t, despite his best efforts, figure out how to keep time on a tambourine.
Things didn’t get any better when he stepped up to the mike. Early numbers like “Mister Richard Smoker” and “Transdermal Celebration” were advance warning that Freeman would be spending the night singing in a voice that was a weird, high-camp cross between Ethel Merman and the Heat Miser from A Year Without Santa Claus.
The ship was temporarily righted when Melchiondo commandeered the mike for the shitkicker classic “Piss Up a Rope”, and the awesomely brown “Tender Situation” was just fucked up enough to make it seem like Ween was a fully functioning unit. Except, on this night, no such luck.
Things went from bad to beyond-weird quickly. To the visible dismay of Melchiondo, Freeman totally blew the lyrics right after the epic guitar solo in “Buckingham Green”. And he decided it was easier to sit on the stage than to stand for “Mutilated Lips”.
Halfway through the show, it was obvious that all was far from good in the world of Ween. At one point, as Freeman futilely attempted to tune a guitar, Melchiondo turned the singer’s amp down when he wasn’t looking and then assumed vocal duties for “With My Own Bare Hands”.
An otherwise blistering “Reggaejunkiejew” was torpedoed when Freeman lay down on the stage midsong, the other members of Ween subsequently getting their revenge with an extended instrumental version of the Carpenters’ “Superstar”.
It was after the latter number that things arguably came to a head. A completely out of it Freeman finally bounced up to slur “Sorry if your panties are in a bunch.” He then proved himself utterly incapable of hitting half the notes in “Freedom of ’76”.
Obviously having had enough, the rest of Ween retreated to the back of the stage while Freeman again attempted to tune his guitar, a task he eventually abandoned. Subsequently, there was a certain irony to watching a totally out of it waste case serenade the crowd with a solo “Birthday Boy”, mostly because of the lyrics “Help me now, I’m going down/And I don’t know if I’ll be okay.” It was right around then that Melchiondo finally bailed, leaving the stage with the other members of the band.
What followed was funny—and sad—as Freeman finished up a sloppy, lone-wolf rendition of “Don’t Sweat It” by looking over his shoulder and then mumbled, “Hey, where’s the band?” Shortly thereafter, he walked off alone and the lights came up, leaving the audience pissed.
As anyone lucky enough to have seen Ween at the Starfish Room on the Chocolate and Cheese tour knows full well, getting fucked up was once a regular occurrence for Ween. But that was the band was playing for 400 people in shitty dive bars. On this night, Freeman—and Freeman alone—blew it in front of nearly 3,000 fans who’d paid $50 a ticket. And you didn’t have to be a fly on the wall to realize that the Boognish and the singer’s bandmates weren’t the only ones not amused.
Watch Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween) perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on January 24, 2011.