When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, and when Kentucky hands you a near-catatonic crowd, Ween cranks up the volume and squirts citric acid in their eyes. At least that’s the way it felt during the band’s mid-tour stop at MegaCorp Pavilion in Newport across the Ohio River from Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Coming off an absolute heater of a Sunday show in Madison, WI that even members of the band and crew acknowledged as a highlight, there was bound to be a bit of a comedown energetically. But when you’ve got a job to do, you’ve got to do it well, and Ween stepped out with likely still-buzzing energy from a sold-out Sunday at The Sylvee, opening Tuesday’s Kentucky show with “Pork Roll Egg and Cheese”. Just as it had done in Chicago on Saturday, the following “The Golden Eel” seemed to boldly announce that Ween was here and ready to play.

Unfortunately, however, a stoic crowd in the flat concrete pit did little to fan the energetic embers of the band’s performance. Dean and Gene Ween (Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman, respectively) have been at this a long time—together since a 1984 encounter with the demonic presence known as the Boognish bequeathed to them their otherworldly prowess for rock and roll—and in those nearly 40 years, they’ve learned a thing or two about how to work a crowd.

That dedication shone through on Deaner’s “Voodoo Lady” guitar solo, an extended moment that never fails to fully condense the entire live Ween experience into several minutes of feedback-laden glory. Mixing the heaviness with tenderness, the salty with the sweet, Ween peppered in emotionally weighty songs like “I Don’t Want It”, “Stay Forever”, and “She’s Your Baby” (the latter two back-to-back) with harder compositions meant to get the blood flowing like “Take Me Away”, “Gabrielle”, and “Buckingham Green”. Keyboardist Glenn McClelland rose to the occasion as a highlight of the show throughout, thanks in no small part to some masterful sound mixing, and colored the murder ballad “Object” with some fittingly spooky synths.

After a one-two punch of “With My Own Bare Hands” (during which Deaner busted a string) and “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)” did little to shake the stonefaced crowd, the internal decision seemed to ripple through the band to unload both smoking barrels of Brown. Whether you were here, there, present, sober, faded, f–d, gone, or locked-in, Ween put the entire crowd face-to-face with the Boog in the prog-rock Pink Floydian build-up of “Did You See Me?” that collided the crowd with a brick wall of sound.

Ween – “Did You See Me?” – 9/12/23

[Video: The Stallion Mang]

The proceeding “How High Can You Fly?” seemed to only confirm this head-down, volume-up mentality that permeated the latter half of the show. That’s the beauty of seeing a Ween concert: if the audience is great and there along with the band through every song, they will play an amazing show. And if the audience sucks, people are wasted and yelling or standing there doing nothing, the band will likely play an amazing show in spite of the audience, rather than for the audience. So in the end, you really can’t lose.

With this newfound “F–k me? F–k you!” swagger, the rest of the show was a marvelous display of the spiked edges that outline Ween’s sound like the spikey hair of the band’s demented mascot. With Dean Ween at the helm, an “Awesome Sound” rose out of the distortion to extend a giant middle finger to any and all indifference amongst the crowd in an ultimate display of Brown before Papa Gener pulled up his stool, grabbed the menu, and ordered up a heaping helping of “Pollo Asado”.

Ween – “Awesome Sound” – 9/12/23

[Video: The Stallion Mang]

Ween – “Pollo Asado” – 9/12/23

[Video: The Stallion Mang]

A singalong “Sorry Charlie” and its line, “So you just call your friends at college / Wonder why you didn’t stay,” resonated across the river from the University of Cincinnati, ahead of a string of favorites including “The Mollusk” and “You Fucked Up”. Closing out the main set with “Homo Rainbow”, the band stepped offstage awash in all the love and acceptance that the “Homo Rainbow” provides.

Digging into La Cucaracha, Ween started the encore with the always-controversial “Shamemaker”, which is a hit-or-miss song for many (I personally vote “hit” for this Tom DeLonge homage). The moment of complete climactic release then came with the long-awaited “Doctor Rock” that liberated the pent-up tension of an at-times frustrating evening following three whole shows without a house call from the good doctor.

While “Doctor Rock” could have easily been the exclamation point to a strong second-half showing, Ween instead opted to go out on a softer note with “I’m Holding You”. The country sway-along cooled the tempers of those worked into a frenzy by “Doctor Rock” (a smart move on the band’s part, lest their fans go rioting into the streets and Ween be held accountable), and once again in the final notes, Glenn shined through like a diamond in the mud as he kept it classy with his twinkling piano to bid us all goodnight.

Ween – “Dr. Rock” – 9/12/23

[Video: The Stallion Mang]

Ween returns to the stage Thursday at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in New York City. For tickets and a full list of dates visit the band’s website. Check out videos of Ween in Kentucky below courtesy of The Stallion Mang.

Ween – MegaCorp Pavilion – Newport, KY – 9/12/23 – Part One

Ween – MegaCorp Pavilion – Newport, KY – 9/12/23 – Part Two

Ween – MegaCorp Pavilion – Newport, KY – 9/12/23 – Part Three

Ween – MegaCorp Pavilion – Newport, KY – 9/12/23 – Part Four

Setlist: Ween | MegaCorp Pavilion | Newport, KY | 9/12/23

Set: Pork Roll Egg and Cheese, The Golden Eel, Light Me Up, Piss Up a Rope, Voodoo Lady, I Don’t Want It, Waving My Dick in the Wind, Take Me Away, Falling Out, Gabrielle, Object, Exactly Where I’m At, Mutilated Lips, Buckingham Green, Stay Forever, She’s Your Baby, With My Own Bare Hands, Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down), Did You See Me?, How High Can You Fly?, Roses Are Free, Your Party, Touch My Tooter, Tick, Awesome Sound, Bananas and Blow, Pollo Asado, Sorry Charlie, The Mollusk, Stroker Ace, You Fucked Up, Homo Rainbow

Encore: Shamemaker, Doctor Rock, I’m Holding You