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PHOTOS: Bobby Weir and Wolf Brothers jam in Reno

By Nick McCabe

The evening started on a positive note when yours truly scored the closest possible parking slot to GSR’s Grand Theatre. And it only got better.

For those of you who have been living in a cave since forever, Bob Weir is a founding member, and the youngest at 18 years old, of Grateful Dead in 1965. He remained a member until the band dissolved after Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995, and continues to be involved in all things Dead, of which this band certainly is one.

Having come late to the Grateful Dead party in 1990, I only had five years of enjoying their shows before it all ended abruptly, so I was very excited to see what Bob’s band had in store.

As expected, Bobby Weir and Wolf Brothers played two great sets, filled with lots of improvisational solos, extended song versions, with some pleasant surprises stuck in there. 

They started off with the iconic jam band choice of “Iko Iko.” This would probably have come off better later in the set after everybody got warmed up (band and audience) and the sound system got dialed in, which they did. All the same, it was a good starter.

By the time they got through “Minglewood Blues” and “Hell in a Bucket” they were hot, the sound was dialed in, and the crowd was massively into it. 

Speaking of the crowd, as in all Dead related shows, the crowd is a big part of the experience. A more colorful collection of revelers would be hard to find. From a well-done-up clown, the spinning dancers, and all sorts of colorful people and apparel, the entertainment was all around.

After a 45-minute break the second set took the audience on a journey through several amazing jams supported by an incredible lighting display. The show seemed to go deeper into a world of music and dreams as the minutes passed. I often found myself staring at the lights with my mouth agape as if I were “on” something (which I was not). I would guess that somebody who has had psychedelic experiences helped put this together. 

Bob Weir ad Wolf Brothers. Image: Nick McCabe / This Is Reno

I did see a group of security personnel and an EMT attending to one partier who appeared to have gone too far.

Besides Weir, the Wolf Brothers band included Don Was on upright bass. Don’s accomplishments defy reality. Going back over 40 years, he has produced artists like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Elton John, The B-52’s, Willie Nelson…the list goes on forever. 

Drummer Jay Lane has been with Weir since forming RatDog with him in 1995. Keyboardist and singer Jeff Chimenti joined RatDog in 1997 and has played in various post-Grateful Dead bands with Weir ever since. 

Joining them on this tour on steel slide guitar is Barry Sless, along with a group of back up players.

A couple of cool surprises they dropped on us were going from Bob Dylan’s “Silvio” into the classic “Tequila.” The lights were in tune with bright blasts where the lyric “tequila” was shouted. 

Also, they went from the Dead’s “He’s Gone” into “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles. They presented their own version of this song, and it was as mind bending as the original.

The crowd was very involved in the show by not only dancing, but also singing along, waving their hands in the air and shouting approval throughout. The addition of well-arranged horns and strings reinforced a beautiful New Orleans layer all night. 

At 75, Weir’s voice and guitar skills are as sharp as ever. He sounded wonderful. The show went for about three-and-a-half hours, coming to an end after their encore of “Friend of The Devil” at 11:20 p.m.

Bob Weir has been a part of our musical landscape for the past 57 years. With a planned final tour for Dead & Co. scheduled for summer 2023, he has at least another year or two of stage time in him. Maybe more if they have a “Final Tour #2.” Plus, he has his other projects, like this one. It’s nights like this that reinforce my belief that there is no better way to enjoy music than to go out and listen to it live.

Get out there and live a little.

Set 1

  • Iko Iko
  • Minglewood Blues
  • Hell In A Bucket
  • Lazy River Road
  • Mama Tried
  • Loose Lucy
  • Birdsong

Set 2

  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Deal
  • Salt Lake City
  • Silvio
  • Tequila
  • He’s Gone
  • Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Going Down That Road Feelin’ Bad
  • Black Peter
  • Sugar Magnolia

Encore

  • Friend Of The Devil

The Band

  • Bob Weir – Guitars, Lead vocals
  • Don Was – Bass
  • Jay Lane – Drums
  • Jeff Chimenti – keyboards
  • Barry Sless – pedal steel guitar
  • Additional players on: Trombone, Trumpet, Sax / Flute, Cello, Violin

My thanks to Steve Funk for his help with this story.

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