Wolf Bros by Rick Winfield

Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers

Grand Theater, Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, NV

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Story by Rick Winfield

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Bob Weir and his newest project, Wolf Brothers, lit out for Reno last Tuesday to celebrate Bob’s 71st birthday and kick off their inaugural tour. The Wolf Brothers are long time Ratdog drummer Jay Lane (also Furthur, Primus, Golden Gate Wingmen, etc) and music producer Don Was on standup bass. While Lane is now a stalwart of the Grateful Dead music scene, Was is new to the scene and a bit of an unknown to most of us. The trio treated the audience to two sets that focused on Grateful Dead classics, a couple Bob Dylan tunes, a Ratdog tune, a song from Weir’s recent solo album, and a couple additional covers.

The stripped-down band featured Weir’s guitar and voice front and center while Lane and Was laid back providing the backing rhythm. For those that aren’t as familiar with Weir’s very unique style of guitar, I’d suggest watching the documentary The Other One before catching Wolf Brothers. The show really ended up being a clinic in Bob’s guitar playing, which at times over the years has been quieter in the mix but with Wolf Brothers is the main focus. Weir’s voice is sounding strong as ever and I particularly enjoyed the first set where Weir didn’t try to sing many of his old friend Jerry Garcia’s songs.

From the video channel of Nichole Barnard:

The show kicked off with a pair of Weir/Hunter classics, “Jack Straw” and then “Cassidy.” It was clear from the get-go that the show was going to be all Weir, both Lane and Was had vocal mics in front of them, but while Lane sang the short Garcia parts in “Jack Straw,” that was about all the background singing we got all night. Lane, who is an absolute monster on the drum kit (see his work with Primus), was very reserved and Was’ playing seemed, unlike other Weir collaborators like Rob Wasserman and Phil Lesh, very simple and straightforward.

Next up was an extremely slow version of “Me and My Uncle” (Weir really prefers the slow these days) followed by “Only a River” from Weir’s recent solo album, Blue Mountain. A sweet version of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me” then Ratdog’s “Ashes and Glass” into “Don’t Let Go” (a Jerry Garcia Band favorite penned by Jesse Strong) back into Ashes and Glass finished up the first set. Weir’s wife, Natasha, brought out a birthday cake before the band could leave the stage and Was led the crowd in a serenade of “Happy Birthday” for Bob.

Spirits were high during the set break as the Deadheads enjoyed the first Reno visit by a member of the band in many years (I believe since Ratdog in 2005). Compliments for Weir’s voice and guitar playing were thrown around while some wished for a little more “rockin’” second set so we could get up and dance.

From the video channel of Nichole Barnard:

Set two kicked off with the traditional tune, “Peggy-O,” a Garcia staple during the days of the Grateful Dead. Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobby McGee, a tune Weir regularly performed with the Grateful Dead during the first half of the 70s followed. Next up was the first Garcia/Hunter song of the night, “Birdsong” (a fitting one-two combination as the later was written for Janis Joplin while the former remains one of her more popular songs). Next up was the late-era Grateful Dead tune, “Corinna” (I must admit that ever since seeing this tune performed twice during the 1992 Philly Spectrum run I’ve had a strong bias against it, so I’ll leave it at that).

From the video channel of Nichole Barnard:

An interesting mashup of “The Music Never Stopped > Shakey Ground > The Music Never Stopped” had the crowd up dancing until Weir brought the mood back down with the introspective Dylan tune, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. The set ended with a very interested stripped down “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider,” another great example of Weir’s very unique guitar additions to The Grateful Dead with Weir largely keeping true to the guitar parts he plays in the full 6 piece band.

Keeping to the typical 11 pm curfew at the Grand Theater, the trio quickly returned for the Garcia/Hunter “hit” “Touch of Grey.” Setlists posted online show that this was a write-in and it was probably the most out of place tune of the evening. While the message, “We will survive,” rings as true today as it did in the post-Garcia-coma Grateful Dead era, the song didn’t really lend itself to the trio format nor is it one of the better Garcia tunes for Weir to sing.

Overall, it was a spectacular night in Reno and all felt very lucky to witness the tour opener in our backyard. Weir made a comment at one point that we’d have to wait a couple shows before it would be “just exactly perfect,” but let’s be honest, it’s The Grateful Dead, it’s both never and always just exactly perfect. That’s why we all feel so fortunate that Weir and the others are still making music for us all!

To submit a story or to just say hello, email us at lmnandr@gmail.com

Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.