Bob Weir and Wolf Bros boogied into Red Bank, New Jersey on Wednesday, March 13th, for the first of two nights at the historic Count Basie Theatre. Weir, along with bassist Don Was and drummer Jay Lane enthusiastically performed a mix of covers and original tunes to a tie-dye soaked crowd of around 1,500 at the nearly sold-out venue. Predictably, the easygoing vibe of the audience and the intimacy of the venue made for an exceedingly friendly atmosphere and attending the show felt like going to a family reunion.
The band kicked off the show with a beautiful rendition of “Only a River”, a cut from Weir’s 2016 solo album Blue Mountain, and followed it with “The Winners” from Weir’s live collaboration with bassist Rob Wasserman. They then dug into the Grateful Dead’s repertoire, delivering a grooving “Jack Straw” before Weir swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric to rumble through crowd favorite, “Tennessee Jed”. Together, the rhythm players locked down the beat to allow Weir to launch his musical explorations during the song’s extended solo section; moments like this defined the night and provided insight into Weir’s mind and musicality. For those in the audience who only knew Weir as a rhythm guitarist (albeit one of the very best and most unique), these moments proved especially captivating.
A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” came next, showcasing Weir’s slide guitar techniques while Lane kept a tight and energetic beat as Was dug deeply into funky, inventive basslines. Weir returned to his own songbook and donned his gray Stratocaster for a quick “Shade of Grey” before moving purposefully into the Dead gem, “Weather Report Suite”. The gray-haired guitarist then launched into the turbulent and expected “Let It Grow”, ending the first set with a raucous jam.
Weir and the boys started the second set with a spirited singalong in covering Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”. A second Grateful Dead song pairing followed, with “Lost Sailor” cascading satisfyingly right into “Saint of Circumstance”. Weir returned to the Dylan stockpile to break out “All Along the Watchtower” to roaring applause, and from the outro emerged a spicy reggae jam which brought seated holdouts to the aisles to dance. The band kept up the energy through “I Need a Miracle”, which saw Weir orchestrating blistering slide licks while the rhythm section swung.
A tender “Looks Like Rain” fell next, delighting many in the audience with the raw emotion of one of Weir’s staple tunes. The outro saw Weir hit his soulful peak for the evening, belting improvised lyrics and howling “Here comes the rain!” An exceptionally smooth and energetic transition brought the band into a dynamic performance of “The Music Never Stopped”, and Weir colored the solo section with his last real bit of creative exploration for the evening. He then brought out special guest Sasha Dobson of Puss N Boots, a talented jazz singer from Weir’s Bay Area sphere, who provided backing vocals on a downright mean “Easy Answers”. The band transitioned from a final jam back into the outro of “The Music Never Stopped” with Dobson to end the second set. After a few moments of anticipatory applause, Weir, Was, Lane, and Dobson returned to the stage to deliver a heartrending “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” encore.
Fans can check out the photos from Wednesday night’s show in the gallery below, courtesy of Chris Capaci.
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros continue their tour tonight, March 14, with a second concert at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey, at 8 p.m.
Setlist: Bob Weir and Wolf Bros | Count Basie Center for the Arts | Red Bank, NJ | 3/13/2019
Set One: Only A River, The Winners, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Maggie’s Farm (Bob Dylan cover), Shade of Grey, Weather Report Suite > Let It Grow
Set Two: Me & Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson cover), Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance, All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover) > I Need A Miracle > Looks Like Rain > The Music Never Stopped > Easy Answers* > The Music Never Stopped*
Encore: Knocking On Heaven’s Door* (Bob Dylan cover)
* w/ Sasha Dobson