Tonight, was an amazing night of shows in Phoenix area. The Who were performing downtown, WASP was performing in Tempe and Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros were at the Celebrity Theatre. It was a very hard pick of which show to see. But for Dead Heads there was only one choice.
As I drove into the parking lot at the Celebrity Theatre, I was transported back to the 70s and early 80s when I attended a Grateful Dead concert. A large number of tailgaters were present and as I walked past them, I got a great contact high (it is legal here in Arizona). Also, there were people with blankets spread out that contained everything Dead or hippy. You could find many different styles of tie-died tee-shirts, all sorts of Dead buttons, banners, and shirts. I even saw someone selling cassette tapes of past Dead shows. Back in the day, people would record Dead shows and then sell copies of the cassette tapes. There are some people that have huge collections of these cassette tapes. The thing to remember, each Dead show was a little different. They either played different songs or in Jerry & Bobby’s style, they would play the same song but a little different each night. The Dead were also known for playing between 2.5 and 3.5-hour shows. People would dance in the venue and sing along with every song.
In 1995 we lost Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead as a band stopped performing. Bobby Weir continued on performing under a number of different other band names including, Ratdog, Wolf Bros and Dead & Company. They continue to perform Grateful Dead songs much to the delight of the fans.
Danny Zelisko Presents brought Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros to a number of cities. They made a stop here in Phoenix at the Celebrity Theatre. Tickets were sold out as soon as the show was announced. The Celebrity Theatre is a special style of theatre. It has a round stage that rotates. However, for tonight’s show, they decided to not rotate the stage and sold only ¾ of the venue. This was part due to the large number of people in the band.
As typical for a Bobby Weir show, a large part of the show was songs from his 30 years in the Grateful Dead. Intermixed were a number of songs from Bobby’s solo career and his band Ratdog. They started the show with 2 classic Dead songs, “Hell in a Bucket” and “I Need a Miracle”. They performed 2 sets with a short intermission. The first set consisted of 8 songs but lasted 1 hour and 18 minutes. The second set consisted of 8 songs (including encore) and lasted 1 hour and 27 minutes. As you can see each song averaged about 10 minutes in length. I was a little surprised that they did not play more of the favorite Dead songs like, “Ramble on Rose”, “Truckin’” and “Friend of the Devil”. But they did play “Wharf Rat” and “Casey Jones” at the end of the second set. Most of the other Dead songs performed were lesser-known songs.
Bobby did most of the singing and also played rhythm guitar. He was joined by drummer Jay Lane, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, bassist Don Was & Barry Sless on pedal steel guitar. After about the 3rd song, they were joined by the Wolfpack. The Wolfpack is a string and brass quintet which bring an orchestral, symphonic element to the music of Grateful Dead and features Alex Kelly, Brian Switzer, Adam Theis, Mads Tolling and Sheldon Brown. The Wolfpack performed intermitting throughout the show.
If you are expecting to hear The Grateful Dead songs as heard on albums, then you will be disappointed. Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros. perform the songs in a little different style. Instead of the bluegrass-style of the Dead, this new style had an element of jazz thrown in. And with the addition of the string and brass quintet they added a fuller and richer sound to the music. They did not change the underlying sound of the Dead, but enriched it to a new and a little different flavor. I personally really enjoyed this new rendition of classic Dead songs. And from the reaction of the crowd, they also loved it.
But by far the highlight of the evening for me was the encore. They came out and performed the classic “Werewolves of London” by the late great Warren Zevon. Everyone in the audience sang along. Also, as a added feature and pre-Halloween jester, the drummer, Jay Lane performed in a werewolf mask.
What can I say, but if you are a Deadhead or just enjoy The Grateful Dead music, then this is a show to see. They are performing at smaller venues which allow you to get closer. If you wait for the Dead & Company this next summer, you will be one of the tens of thousands in the audience.
To find out more about Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros and all of their upcoming shows, check out their website and Facebook page. Bob Weir will also be touring this summer with Dead & Company. You can find out if a show is coming to an area near you on their website. If you are going, I would recommend getting your tickets as soon as possible because they will sell out fast.
Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BobbyWeir/
Dead & Company
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DeadandCompany
Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved
Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros. Setlist: (Covers)
Unless otherwise indicated, all songs are from Grateful Dead
Hell in a Bucket
I Need a Miracle
Odessa (Ratdog cover)
She Says (Ratdog cover)
Bombs Away (Bob Weir song)
Bird Song (Jerry Garcia cover)
My Brother Esau
Samson and Delilah ([traditional] cover)
Playing in the Band (Bob Weir song)
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles cover)
‘Playing in the Band’ reprise
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon cover)