Bob Weir & Wolf Bros ended their 19-date fall tour in great form at the Beacon Theatre in New York City with a pair of unique shows that showcased the Grateful Dead catalogue and beyond. With a Sunday night show bearing no special guests, Bobby showcased his ability to lead the trio through two compelling sets, while on Monday’s tour finale he invited a handful of friends to keep everyone on their toes.
Kicking things off with “Jack Straw” is always a good sign, so when Weir settled into it on Sunday the room cheered with excitement. Taking things right into Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”, Weir foreshadowed Dylan’s impending Beacon residency which starts this Friday. That segued into a peppy “Me & My Uncle” before slowing things down with one of his best songs written, “Looks Like Rain”. Weir loves embellishing on the vocal delivery, which can be a bit hit or miss at this point in his career, but Sunday was a total hit on both vocals and guitar. Weir sounded as good as he has all tour (maybe better?) and without the distraction of special guests, he really allowed himself to stretch out and shine with those Weirdo guitar licks he’s been flaunting.
“Loser” really got the Beacon singing, and although the soaring lead guitar solo was slightly missed, it still packed a solid punch. They closed the first set with “Throwing Stones”, a political anthem that still rings true all these years later. Weir, who sits on the Board of Directors over at Headcount, really has a fire in his voice when he sings about the government that continues to let us down to focus on their own needs, selfishly…but I digress.
Set II was a pure work of art. The song selection, which is obviously subjective, was perfect. They kicked things off with “Deep Ellum Blues”, which had a big roaring “oooh sweet mama!” sing-along by the crowd. That segued into “Dark Star” which would be explored in length by Weir’s superb guitar playing. It’s odd to hear just him and a rhythm section, but it worked out beautifully during this second set. “All Along The Watchtower”, another Dylan tune, was sandwiched in between the two “Dark Star” portions, which eventually slid into the Ratdog tune “Two Djinn” and then “Wharf Rat”.
The single best way to end a Grateful Dead show is most likely with a “China > Rider”, and that’s exactly what was in store for us on Sunday evening. With the energy up, the crowd sang their hearts out as the second set concluded. “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” was encored, a perfect come down from the all-time great song choice in the second set.
The tour finale was accentuated by special guests. Steve Kimock came out shortly after the first set started, adding a little melodic counterpoint to “Easy Answers”. Horns came out to broaden the sound in “Odessa” and with four special guests on stage for “Scarlet Begonias”, it was a very full sound on a stage that had been dominated the night before with space and patience. Weir’s willingness to experiment, even on the final day of tour, is nothing short of inspiring.
Second set was oddly slow, to be fully transparent, but really well-played. “Even So” is my pick of the Ratdog catalogue, and it was beautiful to hear it with horns this time as opposed to trio version at The Capitol Theatre the weekend prior. “Bird Song” was pure ecstasy, complete with whacky horn solos that reinvigorated that 60s Grateful Dead magic. The band teased “The Other One” over the course of the set, and Weir laid down one particular tease during “Bird Song” that drove the crowd nuts, so when they finally landed into it the place was on fire! That energy didn’t subside as much as it mutated into pure bliss during a remarkable rendition of “Days Between”. Jerry’s spirit was in the building as “Turn On Your Love Light” acted as an upbeat set II finale.
There are at least two perfect encore tunes in the Grateful Dead’s catalogue: “Ripple” and “Brokedown Palace”. Fittingly, Weir played both of them as an encore on Sunday night. Maybe the first one acted as an encore for the show while the second was the entire tour’s finale. “Fare you well, fare you well / I love you more than words can tell,” we sang just before exiting another magical night with Bob Weir. What he’s done with this trio was really exceptional. With his best psychedelic cowboy singer-songwriter persona in tow, Weir laid down 38 sets of wild psych-folk in a way that none of us are used to hearing this songs in. Continuing to grow, continuing to explore, and never afraid to occasionally fall flat on his face, Bob Weir is a national treasure. As he sounded amazing on guitar and vocals Monday night, the 3,000-person capacity Beacon Theatre felt just why this music is still vital to them today.
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros | Sunday November 18, 2018 [via]
Set I: Jack Straw > Maggie’s Farm > Me & My Uncle Looks Like Rain Gonesville Loser Josephine > Throwing Stones
Set II: Deep Ellum > Dark Star > All Along The Watchtower > Dark Star > Two Djinn > Wharf Rat > China Cat Sunflower > I know You Rider
Encore: Going Down The Road Feeling Bad
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros | Monday November 19, 2018 [via]
Set I: The Music Never Stopped > Easy Answers * > The Music Never Stopped * Artificial Flowers Only A River * Black Throated Wind Odessa % Scarlet Begonias # Cassidy #
Set II: Even So > @ October Queen > @ Bird Song > @ Eternity @ The Other One % Days Between % Turn On Your Love Light %
Encore : Ripple # Brokedown Palace #
* Steve Kimock @ Kenny Brooks / Reggie Pittman % Steve Kimock /Kenny Brooks / Reggie Pittman # Tal Wilenfeld / Steve Kimock / Kenny Brooks / Reggie Pittman