Ween / Oct. 16, 2007 / Bloomington, Ind. (Bluebird)

Ween, the iconoclastic rock duo from New Hope, Pa., is more than 20 years into its career, yet has surely never sounded as fresh as last night (Oct. 16) in Bloomington, Ind., opening its North America

Ween, the iconoclastic rock duo from New Hope, Pa., is more than 20 years into its career, yet has surely never sounded as fresh as last night (Oct. 16) in Bloomington, Ind., opening its North American tour in support of upcoming Rounder album "La Cucaracha."

The nearly three-hour set (no opening act necessary) blasted the packed house at the cozy Bluebird with a wildly adventurous set list spanning the group's repertoire and featuring a healthy dose of new material. Though past glories like "Transdermal Celebration" and "Voodoo Lady" got the biggest response from the eager crowd, new cuts like the high-energy, country-inflected "Learnin' to Love" and the psychedelic "Spirit Walker" -- both of which were played for the first time Tuesday -- showed the extent of Ween's creativity and incredible range.

Two other selections from "La Cucaracha" couldn't have been more different, illustrating perfectly Ween's trademark dichotomy: the sultry "Your Party" (lead vocals by Gene Ween, aka Aaron Freeman) slunk along on a smoothed-out '70s groove, with lyrics describing an impressive dinner and the central refrain "we had the best time at your party / the wife and I thank you very much." Later on, Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo) took lead mic duties on "My Own Bare Hands," a grungy rocker filled with comical, albeit pornographic, litanies of unprintable lyrics.

The band also ran through two B-sides from the recently released "Friends" EP -- the flamenco-ish "Light Me Up" and the paranoid, pulsating "I've Got To Put the Hammer Down," both of which featured mind-shredding guitar solos by the talented Melchiondo.

"Ocean Man" took an interesting turn when getting Gene's mandolin hooked up to the amps took about five minutes too long, and the band agreeably morphed the song into a slowed-down echoey jam until the instrument was readied just in time for a riotous coda. Also from 1997's "The Mollusk," "Buckingham Green" was one of the night's highlights. The song is, for a group playing at a diminutive club, shockingly arena-ready, anchored by an anthemic, muscular crescendo.

Elsewhere, irreverent, anti-P.C. material like "Spinal Meningitis" and "The Homo Rainbow" fit perfectly side-by-side with roaring-Twenties-spoof "Mr. Richard Smoker" and the straight-laced country of "Powder Blue." Only in a Ween set list.

A five-song encore took the show to just shy of the midnight hour, climaxing with the ethereal space-jam "Back to Basom" and a positively exultant version of "Roses Are Free," from the band's 1994 breakthrough album "Chocolate and Cheese."

And just like that, Ween are back. Rehab and personal issues in 2004 caused the group to cancel its last extensive tour, in support of 2003's " Quebec," but the band is rejuvenated and as entertaining as ever. With "La Cucaracha" crawling toward stores and a touring schedule confirmed through December, there is plenty of opportunity to indulge in the unique musical experience that is Ween.

Here is Ween's set list:

"Take Me Away"
"Transdermal Celebration"
"Waving My D*ck in the Wind"
"Learnin' To Love"
"Voodoo Lady"
"Your Party"
"Light Me Up"
"Spirit Walker"
"Spinal Meningitis"
"Gabrielle"
"Touch My Tooter"
"I've Got To Put the Hammer Down"
"Object"
"Buckingham Green"
"The H.I.V. Song"
"My Own Bare Hands"
"Baby Bitch"
"The Mollusk"
"Tender Situation"
"Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?"
"Ocean Man"
"Nan"
"Stroker Ace"
"Pandy Fackler"
"Tick"
"Leave Deaner Alone"
"The Final Alarm"
"The Stallion, Pt. 3"
"Dr. Rock"

Encore:
"The Homo Rainbow"
"Mr. Richard Smoker"
"Powder Blue"
"Back to Basom"
"Roses Are Free"