Photo by Marc Millman
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros is the latest touring band from the Grateful Dead singer-songwriter. Joined by Jay Lane (drums; Ratdog, Primus) & Don Was (bass; all-star record producer), the band has been breaking new ground in the Grateful Dead songbook and beyond with the stripped-down instrumentation of guitar-bass-drums and often inviting special guests to the stage. This weekend at The Capitol Theatre, Ratdog saxophonists Kenny Brooks and guitar master Warren Haynes were on hand to make things extra special.
The Friday night show featured Brooks extensively as the quartet riffed on “Dark Star”, “Looks Like Rain” (the day was particularly rainy), “Weather Report Suite” and others. A “Brokedown Palace” encore set the tone for Saturday night, which had a lot to live up to.
Bobby and the boys wasted no time on Saturday, coming out of the gate with “Bertha” and then “Friend of the Devil” and an ecstatic “Tennessee Jed”. The Capitol Theatre, a Grateful Dead mecca of sorts, is the perfect venue for a night of this magnitude, and Weir was in fine form as he segued from the trio of Dead classics that started the set into a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”. “Even So”, a jazzy Ratdog tune followed and featured a wolf-howling Weir that ignited the crowd to imitate with their own doggish shrieks. “Corrina” continues to get later-era Bobby excited and this rendition was as fiery as some of the versions Dead & Company laid down on Summer Tour earlier this year. Set one ended with a dancin’ “Deal” that saw many members of the balcony pop up to boogie.
Set two began with the classic “Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance” 1-2 punch, supplemented by some Jay Lane vocals on the “sure don’t know what I’m going for / I’m gonna go for it for sure” sing-along. Throughout the Bob-Jay vocal harmonies, Don Was remained with the same grin he’s had on his face since day one of tour. He’s reminiscent of a Buddha as he smirks throughout the sets while ripping the bass in his all-black wardrobe that would perhaps look a bit serious next to Lane’s über-hippie tie-dye if it weren’t for his flip-flops. ‘Business casual’, we’ll call it.
“Eyes of the World” got the Wolf Bros. treatment and a Saturday night audience choir to boot. It was a beautiful ~10 minutes in The Cap as the inspiring lyrics washed over the crowd, who start to appear more as participants than spectators as they sing, “sometimes the songs that we sing are just songs of our own.” Amen.
When “The Other One” started 2/3 through the second set, it was a bit peculiar that no one had joined the band as special guest. There was a visible guitar amp and microphone set up for the duration of the second set, but no one had joined yet. “Stella Blue” followed in glorious fashion, segueing back into “The Other One” as a familiar long-haired fellow joined from stage right: none other than Mr. Warren Haynes! The crowd erupted, and everyone whipped out their phones for the obligatory photo opp. Once the initial excitement subsided and everyone’s ears perked up, they were treated to some of the most delightful Dead music one could wish for. Warren fit in so naturally with what the Wolf Bros. were doing, and was able to punctuate Bobby’s far-out rhythm guitar with that southern/Allman bliss that has become his signature style.
The quartet dove into “Not Fade Away”, completing the circle from the previous night which started out by riffing on The Crickets original. Warren’s vocal howl was perfectly Wolf-tastic on the cut, and his contributions were just superb. It’s a wonder why he didn’t join for more tunes, but it was certainly a way to end with a bang!
The crowd didn’t stop singing “no our love will not fade away” during the break between second set and encore, so when the group returned – with Warren in tow – to take on the early Dead classic “Turn On Your Love Light”, things turned into a full blown dance party. Ecstatic energy was dripping off the walls of The Capitol Theatre as Haynes’ bluesy guitar licks stamped a fat exclamation mark on the fantastic night of music.
As Bob Weir & Wolf Bros. enter their final week of tour, they will take on on Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York City proper. With the northeast’s biggest cities in their sights, it’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate this incredible song book with – somehow, some way – a new approach and energy from Bob Weir and his incredibly supportive musicians drummer Jay Lane and bassist Don Was. The group has jived, and they’re creating some really incredible moments on the stage.
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros. Tour 2018
Tuesday 11/13/18 – The Fillmore Philadelphia – Philadelphia, PA Thursday 11/15/18 – Boch Center Wang Theatre – Boston, MA Friday 11/16/18 – Boch Center Wang Theatre – Boston, MA Sunday 11/18/18 – Beacon Theater – New York, NY Monday 11/19/18 – Beacon Theater – New York, NY