Bob Weir & Wolf Bros Make Blue Note Debut In New York City: Full Show Pro-Shot Video
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros gives Grateful Dead fans the opportunity to see Weir perform at much more intimate venues than the stadiums and arenas the guitarist plays at with Dead & Company. This typically means theaters that hold thousands of fans. However, on Monday the trio took the intimacy to a new level with a pair of last-minute shows at the 200-capacity Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.
The concerts were announced a little more than 24 hours before Weir took the stage with bassist Don Was and drummer Jay Lane. Tickets were dispersed through a lottery system and the short window of time from announcement to show did help the chances of those who wanted to attend. One of the few attendees who bypassed the lottery system was Bobby’s Grateful Dead band mate Phil Lesh, who watched from the crowd with his son Grahame. Thankfully, concert-goers were respectful of Lesh and outside of a few seeking handshakes, left the bassist to enjoy the performance in peace.
Monday’s early show was particularly jazzy thanks in part to the handiwork of longtime RatDog saxophonist Kenny Brooks. The trio went at it alone to start and opened with “Dark Star.” Bob Weir & Wolf Bros would weave in an out of “Dark Star” throughout the 75-minute set in dreamlike fashion. One of the more interesting elements of the three-piece’s music is how at some points it’s incredibly loose and at others tight. There were points when it felt like the improvisation was dangling by a thread and the music was about to fall apart. Yet, this aspect was exciting and kept attendees hanging on every note.
The Blue Note is not only small but rather fancy for a “rock show.” Food was served throughout and the crowd sat except for those with standing-room only spots. While the audience may have been seated and quiet, they were attentive, present and in the moment. Brooks would take a solo and one could hear a pindrop, but fans would applause the moment the solo was finished. The Blue Note’s no cell phone policy helped on that regard.
Weir, Was and Lane tipped their proverbial hat to a jazz legend by connecting on “A Love Supreme” jam. Bobby played the riff and Was picked up on it within seconds. Brooks emerged during the “A Love Supreme” jam and stuck around for two more forays into “Dark Star” land broken up by covers of Little Willie John’s “Fever” and Little Feat’s “Easy To Slip.” The latter saw Weir struggle with the second verse but he had fun with the flub and had the band restart the verse. Bobby was in fine voice all night long and the impeccable and unforgiving acoustics of the venue showed that at 71 years of age Weir is going through a renaissance.
Brooks vacated the stage for an adventurous “Playing In The Band” that saw the trio jam on the “Supplication” riff for the first time. For a trio, they made a big sound when they wanted to. “Supplication” led into an absolutely gorgeous version of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Bobby has always had a knack for delivering Dylan’s lyrics well and that trend continues into the present. The band picked the “Supplication” riff up again after “Masterpiece” and the tiny crowd went nuts when the evening’s fifth round of “Dark Star” began. The group quickly made a move towards “Playing In The Band Reprise.” With the audience for the late show waiting outside, the trio and Kenny barely left the stage for the encore break and ended the performance with a delightful “Ripple.”
Last night’s late show was a more laidback affair and less adventurous. Weir, Was and Lane opened with “Eternity,” a song Bob and Rob Wasserman wrote to Willie Dixon’s lyrics. “Eternity” had disappeared from Bob’s repertoire from 2002 until Wolf Bros’ inaugural tour last fall. Another fantastic aspect of the band is giving Weir a platform to play songs such as “Eternity” that just wouldn’t work as well with Dead & Company or Furthur. Brooks returned for the “Bird Song” that followed. “Bird Song” has been a centerpiece for Bob Weir & Wolf Bros when it comes to improvisation and this version didn’t disappoint. Next, Bob showed off his aforementioned skill at singing Dylan’s lyrics during “Most Of The Time.” The 75-minute set concluded with a run of “New Speedway Boogie” into “Morning Dew” into “Not Fade Away.”
Kenny Brooks added to the “Not Fade Away” finale. When Bob Weir & Wolf Bros returned for the encore, they picked up where they left off in “Not Fade Away.” The trio then made a slick turn into the Buddy Holly-popularized “Oh, Boy!” Bobby hadn’t performed “Oh, Boy!” with Wolf Bros previously and has only played the song a handful of times this decade. Just after midnight, a well-satiated crowd brought the party into the streets of Greenwich Village thankful for an experience that wasn’t even on the calendar the previous morning.
Watch pro-shot video of both shows thanks to nugs.tv:
Early Set: Dark Star v1 > A Love Supreme Jam* > Dark Star* > Fever* > Dark Star* > Easy To Slip* > Dark Star, Playing In The Band > Supplication Jam > When I Paint My Masterpiece > Supplication Jam* > Dark Star v2* > Playing In The Band Reprise*
* – w/ Kenny Brooks
Late Set: Eternity > Bird Song*, Most Of The Time, New Speedway Boogie > Morning Dew > Not Fade Away*
Encore: Not Fade Away Reprise > Oh Boy!
* – w/ Kenny Brooks