Ween had played a couple songs Friday when the Grateful Dead popped to mind — not that the band led by singer Gene and lead guitarist Dean sounds like the Dead, but they’re Dead-like in their laidback, jam-band approach to music that draws on a wide range of styles.
Then, The Flaming Lips popped to mind. That would be for their weirdness, again more intentional with the Lips. But Ween’s coming from that same 1990’s place, only going more country than psychedelic.
That’s probably why the next comparison that came up was Neil Young, first for Gene’s reedy vocals, then, for much of the night, for the acoustic-rooted rock sounds that Young perfected in the ‘70s.
Frdiay’s show, which was to have started at 8 p.m., kicked off about 20 minutes late. It was to have run for about two hours. I caught about 100 minutes of the set and can report that, like the shows Ween has played since Gene and Dean reunited a couple years ago, the song selection surveyed the band’s career — with an emphasis on its 90s material.
That was when Ween picked up the cult following that brought 1,900 people to the bowl to sample the mix that touched on prog rock a couple times, hit pop with “Can’t Put My Finger On It,” and brought out favorites favorites like “Happy Colored Marbles.”
The latter was one of the few repeats in Friday’s set compared with what Ween played in Moorhead, Minn., Thursday. That’s another mark of a jam band — and it became obvious that Friday’s show was constructed, at least in part, on the fly.
About 90 minutes in, Gene asked “What’s next Deaner?” “I’m going to say ‘Tried & True,’” Dean replied. The duo sat on their stools, started strumming their acoustic guitars, beginning a countrified stretch of the gentle, swinging “What Deaner Was Talking About,” the relatively new “Kim Smoltz” and the duo’s ribald straight country classic “P— Up a Rope,” that was the night’s loudest shout along.
“We’re developing a theme here,” Gene said, going into the piano-driven honky tonk of “Japanese Cowboy.”
What came next I don’t know — it was deadline time. But whatever it was, I’m sure, the crowd locked into and pushed Ween on and on.