Okay, so they may have been around since 1984 or thereabouts, but there's a fairly good chance that you're entirely unfamiliar with the charms of Ween (think lengthy guitar solos, genre-hopping madness, lyrics ranging from puerile to inspired and songs with names like Touch My Tooter and Pork Roll Egg And Cheese).
According to my sources, their 2003 live triple-disc (arriving a full two years after an acrimonious split with label Elektra) was the first Ween album to breach the Billboard Top 100, weighing in at a dizzy 81. With such modest success, then, how on earth are they able to boast a fanatical following, the promise of a ninth studio album and this - a top notch DVD production? Welcome to the world of Ween and their demi-god, the Boognish. Perplexed yet? You ought to be.
Dean and Gene Ween, legally known as Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman, have a penchant for the ridiculous. Take, for instance, their bopping sing-along The H.I.V. Song, in which the chorus consists of a triumphant cry of "Aids!". Take that very same track, add a rabid live audience and two decades of band chemistry and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Live In Chicago is all about.
Ween are not, however, a Tenacious D of the ages. There is little to no inter-song banter (brief request-taking excepted); no fancy props; no rock medlies (fantastic cover of Led Zep's All Of My Love excepted too).
Instead, Ween are serious rockers, belting out a polished live set of extraordinarily strong tunes, maintaining straight faces even amidst the crudest lyrical content. Don't get me wrong, though - immaturity may not be what you look for in your music, but you'll be in awe of the Ween after the likes of Spinal Meningitis Got Me Down, Don't Laugh (I Love You) and The Blarney Stone. What comes across more than anything is Dean and Gene's incredible talent, which is so finely honed that it pumps out and holds together a massive menagerie of styles and tones.
Technically speaking, there is a whole lot of bang for your buck on offer with Live In Chicago. The main feature itself is, of course, the entire set from start to finish, including three song encore. What this means is 26 tracks taken from a mammoth career and eight albums and, unsurprisingly, the crowd are there for every single syllable.
A grand total of three tracks enjoy the privilege of alternate cuts, accessed with a simple press of the Enter button. A bonus video of Transdermal Celebration tops things off, telling the memorable story of little Ween monsters invading the Earth / saving the Earth by turning all humans into trees (it's hard to tell which). As if that wasn't enough, a 17-track live CD is thrown in with the price, enabling you to sing The H.I.V. song on your way to work.
Before popping Live In Chicago into my player, I was vaguely familiar with Ween, expecting a few killer songs with a whole lot of piss-take filler. What I saw was nothing short of marvellous, providing more than enough Ween to leave me wanting more. There are few better introductions to Dean and Gene's world (it spans decades). Do you have the guts to take a dip?