For the fifth and penultimate show of their duo tour, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh arrived at the opulent Chicago Theatre for another round of Grateful Dead music. The duo’s debut of “Estimated Prophet”, the surprise guest sit-ins from Jeff Chimenti, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, and Wally Ingram, all highlighted the Chicago Theatre opener.
The environment was teeming with good vibes all around, and the duo wasted no time in bringing the magic. The first set was fairly straightforward. With the exception of Wally Ingram, who played percussion on only three songs, the first set was what many imagined when the tour was announced: Phil & Bobby, alone on stage, giving their take on numbers from the Grateful Dead canon. Phil started it off with “Box of Rain”, featuring Ingram on drums, who left the stage to just the two bandmates for the next two songs.”Ramble On Rose”, “Cosmic Charlie”, and “Looks Like Rain” were all gentle versions, with Bob on acoustic guitar. “Looks Like Rain” especially sounded like it was made for no electricity, as the two reminisced the origins of the song: “I remember you bringing this song over to my house on a rainy night in Fairfax, and playing this incredible song right there in my living room. I never forgot that it was very moving,” expressed Phil. “And the cool thing is the bulk of it we wrote over the telephone,” Bobby added, referring to his co-writer John Perry Barlow.
The duo’s first time playing “Estimated Prophet” was a unique one, as the strange time signature of the song presented a new composition without the power of a drumkit (and the Rhythm Devils!), though Bobby executed the song’s solos to perfection. Perhaps the most precious moment of the first set was when a child–just barely old enough to walk–pranced onto the stage, almost reached Phil, and then sheepishly pranced back off stage. The crowd noted the child’s curiosity and gave him a big cheer. The Dead family undoubtedly lives on. “Operator” followed and the set closed out with an especially raunchy “West LA Fadeaway”. Watch the first-set opener below, courtesy of nugs.tv.
The second set was irrefutably better. The energy level was not even comparable, and this certainly had to do with the guests that Bob and Phil brought out. Joining the two were Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, who accompanied Bob and Phil in Boston. A piano was sat abandoned for the first set and fans were happy to see that Jeff Chimenti was the one who would occupy it for the entirety of the second set. And with Ingram sitting in as well, the second set gave the audience a full-band setup.
Bobby, Phil, and guests opened with a phenomenal version of “Playin’ in the Band”, followed by the revered “Scarlet Begonias” complete with a smooth transition to “Fire on the Mountain”, marking one of the evening’s best segments. It was surprising how many peaks they tried to fit in the buildup of “Scarlet Begonias”, as Bob and Phil continued to lure the other musicians into another round of jamming. In almost rehearsed synchronicity, for the final peak, a balloon slowly floated onto the stage right in front of Phil. Instead of ignoring it, Phil took a massive kick and booted it just as he hit the peak, and the balloon returned from where it came. The transition into “Fire On The Mountain” was seamless, and once they officially began the song, it was just Bobby and Phil for a couple measures before Campbell joined in with a mandolin. Watch the second-set opener below, courtesy of nugs.tv.
A spacey introduction allowed the music to settle on “Dark Star”. The vocals were majestic in the song, as first Teresa Williams, then Phil, and finally Bobby took a line in each verse before getting to the chorus. “St. Stephen” was properly juxtaposed to the spacey “Dark Star”, as the familiar guitar lick and sing-along lyrics were open to involve the whole crowd. “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” was unusually placed amidst a set filled with Dead heavy-hitters, but “Bird Song” brought it right back up, and also demonstrated the versatility of Campbell as he used an acoustic cittern for the tune. Finally, a rousing rendition of “Sugar Magnolia” closed the second set with an exclamation point. “U.S. Blues” was a last minute modification to the show and was played in the encore slot.
With only one more show on their very brief tour, Bob and Phil showed that they still can bring the magic to the masses. It was great seeing them together on stage, and tonight the two will bring the music for one last time.
You can listen to the full show audio below, courtesy of JeffFrank:
Setlist: Bobby & Phil | Chicago Theatre | Chicago, IL | 3/10/2018
Set I: Box Of Rain pl @ *, Ramble On Rose bw @, Cosmic Charlie bw pl @, Looks Like Rain bw @, Estimated Prophet bw *, Operator pl @, West L.A. Fadeaway bw *, Voter Rap bw
Set II [ w/ Jeff Chimenti, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams & Wally Ingram ]: Playing In The Band bw @ # +, Scarlet Begonias bw # > Fire On The Mountain bw ^, Dark Star tw pl bw > St Stephen bw pl tw > A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall bw, Bird Song pl §, Sugar Magnolia bw
Encore: Donor Rap pl, U.S. Blues bw
*Wally Ingram percussion @ Bobby Acoustic, # Larry Acoustic, + Bobby Electric, ^ Larry Mandolin, § Larry Mandola