Former Ween frontman Aaron Freeman proved a couple of things Thursday night in Hollywood: He’s more than capable of holding his own creatively outside the collaborative brotherhood of Ween, and sobriety has not hampered his songwriting ability in the least.
Freeman and his eponymous band tore through a good portion of their debut self-titled album and worked in plenty of Ween cuts, keeping the audience transfixed for a nearly two-hour set. The handoff was made by openers Arc Iris, an inspired choice given their Ween-like ability to jump genres, relative indescribability and high level of musicianship. Arc Iris keyboardist Zach Tenorio-Miller segued into Freeman’s lineup and did much more than simply tie the evening together. His extended solo on the band’s rendition of Ween’s “Your Party” was utterly transcendent.
The rest of Freeman’s roster delivered similarly, with first-rate players filling out the band. Chris Boerner’s guitar work was exceptional, and drummer Kyle Keegan and bassist Joe Young managed to make the intricate seem effortless. The man formerly known as Gene Ween was at the top of his game, as well. Beaming for most of the show, he seemed to be feeling the energy of the riveted audience and gleeful to be showing off his new album. His vocal gymnastics were as nimble as Ween fans have come to expect, leisurely nailing the falsetto stretches of “Freedom of ’76” or dipping into the low end of “Happy Colored Marbles.”
The Ween cuts performed slalomed in and out of the new Freeman tracks with no trouble whatsoever. Standouts from the set included “Transdermal Celebration,” “(For A While) I Couldn’t Play My Guitar Like A Man” and an otherworldly version of “Demon Sweat” from 1991’s The Pod.
Given the quality of Aaron Freeman’s writing on the new record and the zeal he seemed to find performing the material live, more good things should be on the horizon for both the man personally and his new band. It appears there is abundant life beyond Ween.