Bob Weir & Wolf Bros Perform At State Theatre In Portland, Maine: Recap & Photos
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros :: 3.9.19
State Theatre :: Portland, ME
Bob Weir brought his Wolf Bros trio, which also features Jay Lane on drums and Don Was on upright bass, to the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, for a spirited performance in front a festive Saturday night audience. The relatively new trio has afforded Weir opportunities for fresh interpretations of songs that are like a second skin to him. Several moments found him exploring the open space afforded by a trio, while others yielded a sound that felt much bigger than the product of merely three musicians.
The first set was thick with blues, with the first quarter alone featuring opener “Good Morning, School Girl,” the Grateful Dead staple that was penned by Sonny Boy Williamson along with Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster.” In between those songs, Weir and company also drew the blues influences out of Wolf Bros. favorite “Cassidy,” finding a rich vein of improvisational material the further they ventured from the song proper, as well as the RatDog duo of the slow-burning “Even So” and “October Queen.”
Boasting some nifty slide guitar work by Weir, “Little Red Rooster” lit a fire under the audience that grew for the rest of the set. Weir kept the acoustic in hand for a soulful take on Bob Dylan’s “Most of the Time,” the first of two Dylan covers played that evening, and a rollicking take on “Loose Lucy” that seemed to be just what the crowd was craving. The band built on that response with another audience favorite with “Throwing Stones” and retreated for their break.
The band opened the second set with “Bombs Away,” a song from Weir’s 1978 album Heaven Help the Fool, which has seen a resurgence on this tour after a long period of dormancy and featured stellar interplay between guitar and drums. If this semi-obscure number threw the crowd for a loop, he reeled them back in with a rousing, singalong take on Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and a pleasant sojourn through “Passenger.”
“Weather Report Suite,” Weir’s epic contribution to 1973’s Wake of the Flood, followed, with the band deftly maneuvering the song’s many turns and blossoming into a robust, almost Talking Heads-like groove during the “Let it Grow” passage. They returned to the blues for an extended intro to “Truckin’,” in which Weir coiled guitar licks around the familiar rhythm. The jam out of the song was similarly gnarled, with Weir unleashing barbed-wire bits of spiky, metallic chords. This flowed nicely into a take on Eddie Cooley’s sultry, oft-covered “Fever,” a song that afforded Weir another chance to show how fine his singing voice’s form is currently in.
A take on Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” then brought the show full circle, not only returning to the words and perspective of Bob Dylan but also some of the imagery and themes of “Weather Report Suite.” At this point, the time was nearing 11 p.m. and age 71, Weir could have been forgiven for running through something like “One More Saturday Night” and bidding the Maine audience good night. Instead, he offered up a vibrant “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider,” staying up until the late end of his curfew parameters, and offering “Ripple” as an encore. How does he still do it? Perhaps the secret is in the exercise footage he’s been sharing on social media.