Is it possible for lovable old stoner outlaws to stay relevant (and funny) in the age of marijuana legalization? That was the question on Saturday night at the Cheech and Chong with WAR show at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield. The answer? Reply hazy, try again…
There was definitely a haze over the mostly middle-aged audience in the half-full 1stBank Center. The show opened with a set of jokes and old-timey stories from Shelby Chong, Tommy Chong’s 66-year-old blond bombshell of a wife for nearly 40 years. Shelby then welcomed her husband and his partner Cheech Marin to the stage for a sometimes-funny, sometimes-awkward question and answer session including, supposedly, questions tweeted from the audience. In response to the question, “How has legalization affected you?,” Tommy Chong quipped “I’m moving to Colorado!” to the cheering crowd.
Promising a new Cheech and Chong movie in the works, (though “Up in Smoke 2” has been rumored to be in production since 2010), the duo introduced the band, War. The classic funk rock band best known for hit songs “Low Rider” and “Spill the Wine” is now the vehicle for vocalist Lonnie Jordan, the only original member of the band. Four other members of the original War lineup currently perform as the “Low Rider Band,” though neither band has released any new material in over 20 years.
WAR’s first job on Saturday night was a backup band for some of the classic Cheech and Chong musical comedy numbers including the 1973 gem “Basketball Jones,” and the honky-tonk silliness of “Me and My Old Lady.” After a few comedy songs, the comedians left the stage and War played a set of mostly stale funk rock for the stoned, seated crowd. During the short set, War’s “Spill the Wine” failed to bring the audience to its feet. Then Cheech and Chong returned to the stage for a series of comedy sketches including barely updated renditions of classic bits like “Dave’s Not Here” and the “Stoned in the Car” scene from their 1978 film “Up in Smoke.” The night ended with a few more musical sketches including Chong’s old blues guy “Blind Melon Chitlin” and Cheech in full tutu as Alice Bowie for “Earache My Eye.”
With its odd format that meandered between talk show, comedy show and rock concert, the Cheech and Chong with War show was a strange variety show with not much variety. The classic comedy material still has funny moments and went over better than the musical interludes by War. But in the end, it was a mostly stale mix of stoner nostalgia and smoke.
Amy McGrath is a Denver-based writer and regular contributor to Reverb.