We have a lot to thank ATP for. Twice a year they ship over highly rated, under-appreciated (by us Brits at least) bands who could often not justify the air fare. Lucky for us, these bands often squeeze a few other dates in while they're in Europe - and fortunately Ween were no exception, making their first UK appearance since 2003. Billed as "An Evening with Ween", the band were scheduled to be on stage at 8pm - with no support, for a three hour set. As a longtime fan/part time believer in the cult of Ween, it was make or break time.
Shortly after 8, the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted. Shoeless and Geneless, Dean Ween took to the stage, before powering up the band with a beefed up version of Fiesta, from last year's La Cucaracha. Gene soon joined brother Dean on stage as they segued into Take Me Away - and the power and prescision of the band set things up for a night of fun, that was unfortunatley barely matched again.
Like a hilarious comedian who ruins his potentially flawless routine with constant fart jokes, the show pretty much played out like any Ween album - patchy as hell. Unfortunatley, a live show lacks the one essential item for making any Ween album bearable - the skip button. For every chunky verion of Bananas and Blow, I'll Be Your Johnny On The Spot or Voodoo Lady there was an over-extended labrious wander through many others from their vast catalogue. Sound problems didn't help, with Thin Lizzy-esque power anthem Gabrielle amongst many tracks drowned in the poor sound, which managed to muffle even the drums and treble.
Many of my own favourites were left out (where were Stay Forever, What Deaner Was Talkin' About, Did You See Me?, If You Could Save Yourself and It's Gonna Be A Long Night?), possibly because it turned out it wasn't such a long night after all - a mere two and a half hours - and if they'd cut out the brown noise that made up most of the show we could have been going home after around 45 minutes.
Criticisms aside, I certainly feel like I have the minority opinion here - with most of the packed out crowd having the time of their lives. Beer bust at the Empire! For me, the dream is over. At best they're like Zappa, at worst it's like watching a pub band rehearse their latest wacky Barbara Steisand cover - complete with National Anthem Guitar Solo. I have seen an alternate reality where Tenacious D are leading the world in musical experimenation and it scared me.
I feel like I've escaped from a cult and while I feel an occasional nostalgia for the fellow moonies I left behind, it sure feels good. For now.
Check out more photos over at our Flickr page.
Watch videos from the show at DrDamage73's YouTube page.