On Saturday night, guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh continued their first-ever duo tour pulling into the Windy City for a two-night stand at the historic Chicago Theatre. The former Grateful Dead bandmates were again joined by percussionist Wally Ingram, who has been the one constant for the entire run, at points throughout the night. For the third show in a row the duo shared the stage with multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell and vocalist Teresa Williams, while inviting longtime Dead family member Jeff Chimenti to join on keys for the entire second set.
Bobby and Phil, along with Ingram, opened the show with the Robert Hunter/Lesh collaboration “Box Of Rain.” Ingram left the stage next as Weir delivered the tour’s second attempt at “Ramble On Rose.” While Bobby had a tough time getting through the lyrics during the Radio City Music Hall take, last night he dutifully made it through the lyrically-dense Americana song. Psychedelic-era chestnut “Cosmic Charlie” followed with Bobby sharing a very brief, non-descriptive origin story about it as he talked about when the Grateful Dead rented out an old rundown theater to practice in, where they wrote it along with other tunes.
Weir and Lesh then shared a more detailed story ahead of the tour’s first rendition of “Looks Like Rain.” Bobby prefaced things by saying he wrote it with his longtime collaborator John Perry Barlow. Lesh then chimed in saying, “I remember you bringing this song over to my house on a rainy night in Fairfax, and playing this incredible song right there in my living room. I never forgot that, it was very moving.” Weir chimed in stating, “I had no idea if it was going to fly. And the cool thing is the bulk of it we wrote over the telephone.”
Next, Weir switched over to electric guitar as Ingram returned to the stage for the second tour debut as they offered up their ode to California – “Estimated Prophet,” which had a particular jazzy sound to it. They returned back to a duo as Lesh got a turn to sing, as he delivered the American Beauty track “Operator,” with Bobby, Phil and Ingram finally bringing the first frame coming to an end with “West L.A. Fadeaway.”
Throughout the tour, Weir and Lesh have played as a duo, trio, quartet and quintet. Last night the pair had their biggest lineup yet as they expanded to a sextet as Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams returned for a third night along with Jeff Chimenti who emerged to play the piano that had been sitting out on the stage since the start of the show. The current Dead & Company keyboardist is no stranger to the Grateful Dead songbook as he’s had a longstanding history of playing with Weir that dates back to the late-1990s when he became a full-time member of Ratdog. Chimenti also logged time playing alongside Lesh as a member of Furthur and was also tapped to be in the lineup for the Fare Thee Well shows.
The now full band got their second set of the night going with “Playing In The Band” that featured both Weir and Campbell on acoustic guitars. Weir then switched over to electric guitar as the ad-hoc ensemble delivered the traditional pairing of “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain” with the latter featuring Campbell on mandolin, giving the tune a bit of a bluegrass vibe. After a bit of a spacey jamming, Phil dropped into the familiar bass line of “Dark Star” that saw Williams, Lesh and Weir share vocal duties. The 15-minute exploratory take eventually worked its way into another classic from the Acid Test days: “St. Stephen.” A heartfelt, poignant take on Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna-Fall” followed, with Lesh next stepping up on “Bird Song.” A spirited take on “Sugar Magnolia” brought things to a close as the band returned to close out the night with “U.S. Blues.”
Watch pro and fan-shot video and check out the full setlist below:
Setlist (via Deadheadland)
Set I: Box Of Rain pl @ *, Ramble On Rose bw @, Cosmic Charlie bw pl @, Looks Like Rain bw @, Estimated Prophet bw *, Operator pl @, West L.A. Fadeaway bw *, Voter Rap bw
Set II [ w/ Jeff Chimenti, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams & Wally Ingram ]: Playing In The Band bw @ # +, Scarlet Begonias bw # > Fire On The Mountain bw ^, Dark Star tw pl bw > St Stephen bw pl tw > A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall bw, Bird Song pl §, Sugar Magnolia bw
Encore: Donor Rap pl, U.S. Blues bw
*Wally Ingram percussion @ Bobby Acoustic, # Larry Acoustic, + Bobby Electric, ^ Larry Mandolin, § Larry Mandola