After Ween’s mid-tour meltdown last year — attributed to substance abuse problems — the New Hope, Pa., band’s future looked grim. A year later, with the band compiling unreleased recordings under the title of “Shinola Vol. 1,” the goofball act proved to be rested, ready and revitalized.
Opening songs were direct crowd-pleasers (“Pork Roll Egg & Cheese” and a warped psycho carousel ride through “Happy Color Marbles”) but the mood was decidedly darkened by “Take Me Away” and “The Grobe.” Vicious and loud material, including an almost violent four-song encore, stunned the crowd yet found the band at its best.
Band perfectly played with the room’s energy — slow and warped dirges (“Baby Bitch”) mixed with bright, sunny pop (“Ocean Man”) and lofty, jazz-fueled overtures like the pharmaceutical love song “Zoloft.” Quintet did the seated, at times country-styled, acoustic set for three songs.
Missing from the show were the band’s usual onstage antics, casual chat and entertaining banter. They did not appear loose, and gag tunes like “Piano Man” or Led Zeppelin send-ups were absent. Instead, the band came across as stoic and serious — in a sense, all business.
Usually Ween does an amazing job at generating a sharp sound, with popping clarity and synthesizer atmospherics. But the sound — while full and forceful — hovered in muddy, heavy-handed territory. This actually worked well with some songs, especially with the band’s new offerings such as the angry, seemingly anti-fan anthem “Leave Deaner Alone.”