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Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers - Chicago Theater, Chicago, 1/11/2018

  by Lisa Torem

published: 27 / 11 / 2018

Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers - Chicago Theater, Chicago, 1/11/2018


Lisa Torem finds that former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir’s terrific pairing with producer/bassist Don Was and drummer Jay Lane at the Chicago Theater makes for almost three hours of engaging music.

Former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir is no stranger to the Chicago Theater. He appeared with Grateful Dead buddy Phil Lesh (Bobby and Phil) earlier this year, but playing this time around with upright bassist/producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt) and Jay Lane (Primus, RatDog). The legends performed two, ambitious sets, lasting from about seven to half past ten, facing off an exuberant crowd that would have stayed all night. The powerful character study ‘Jack Star’ started the whole shebang off. Was, donning a droopy black hat, allowed Weir to bask under the spot light, but kept that bass thumping in admirable time. ‘I Need a Miracle’ was the first of many Grateful Dead tunes and it immediately inspired a sing-a-long. Native son Willie Dixon’s ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ was a surefire hit, although fans at last night’s sold-out show also enjoyed Dixon’s ‘Little Red Rooster’ and Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning,’ two more home-grown hits. It was at this point, too, that Weir admitted that “we didn’t get a sound check today.” But if these musos were simply winging it, no one would have guessed. Weir also spit out, "Y’all gonna vote? Just askin'," as this concert took place just days before an important American election. ‘Gonesville' from Weir’s solo ‘Blue Mountain’ still stands up as a moving classic and it was one of the singer-songwriter’s most gravely-good vocal numbers. The hard-to-resist and traditional ‘Peggy-O’ coughed up a tear in Weir’s throat and drudged up a ton of memories but the Bobby and The Midnites’ sultry cover of ‘Josephine’ satisfied in an entirely different manner, by morphing into some ethereal jazz during the outro. A couple more Dead Head pleasers, ‘Loose Lucy’ and ‘Althea’ floated time with their riff-heavy heartbeats but a cover of Henry Whitter’s ‘Going Down the Road Feeling Bad’ AKA ‘Lonesome Road Blues’ which harkens back to 1924, underscored the power-trio’s undisputed chemistry and highlighted Lane’s terrific timing. Likewise, Was showed off his impeccable musicianship, stylistically blending his instrument with whatever the set list commanded. Set Two opened with the poignant ‘Easy to Slip,’ a Little Feat favorite, followed by a predictably rootsy rendition of ‘Deep Elem Blues,’ a song first recorded back in the 1930s and covered thereafter by a slew of others. The title refers to an area in Texas in which legends Lead Belly and Blind Lemon Jefferson were born. Weir’s best solo took place here. On another Dead darling, ‘Dark Star,’ the trio luxuriated on the intro. but afterwards took an unexpected turn, headed off by Lane on the Beatles’ psychedelic ‘Tomorrow Never Knows'. Lane started the song off by echoing Ringo Starr’s torrential drum rolls, yet made the tune his very own. Weir slid masterfully down the breadth of the fret board on ‘Dark Star’ and made his guitar growl even more substantially for another Dead place marker, ‘The Music Never Stopped’ And who else but that band could start a ballad with the lyric, “There’s mosquitos on the river.” Weir’s lament on ‘Shakey Ground’ (a ‘Temptations cover) fared particularly well with the younger patrons. Maybe, given these tough economic times, they related especially well to the line, “My car got repossessed this morning.” Then again, it could have been Weir’s crusty delivery that got them going. Dreamy ‘Stella Blue’ from 1973’s ‘Wake of the Flood’ possesses one of the prettiest instrumental phrases the Grateful Dead has ever birthed, with heart to boot: “All the years combine, they melt into a dream…” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1960’s gospel great, ‘Turn on Your Lovelight’ has reached anthemic heights over the decades and this trio’s version more than did it justice—it’s no wonder that fans of all ages resonated to the vivacious vibe. And speaking of all-ages, that term distinctly describes the demographic. One casualty involved a probably disappointed father whose young daughter couldn’t quite keep her eyes open — sadly for dad, they didn’t return to their reserved seats after intermission. The soul-gripping ‘Ripple’ from 1970’s ‘American Beauty’ was an excellent choice for an encore, but like I said, this crowd, which included repeat customers from the previous night’s hoopla, would have stayed the night with no arm-twisting whatsoever. This was one of the most mellow concerts many of us locals have attended this year, and knowing the Grateful Dead legacy, attendees may have come in from neighbouring states or even further, but as long as they flock to see their heroes, seats will be sold and parents will disregard proper bedtimes. Photographs by Janet Mami Takayama https://jeannedarcmedia.com/

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Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers - Chicago Theater, Chicago, 1/11/2018

Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers - Chicago Theater, Chicago, 1/11/2018

Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers - Chicago Theater, Chicago, 1/11/2018

Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers - Chicago Theater, Chicago, 1/11/2018

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