Bob Weir kicked off the first show of a lengthy fall tour billed as Bob Weir & Wolf Bros at the Grand Sierra Theatre in Reno, NV on October 16th. Joined by Ratdog drummer Jay Lane, and acclaimed upright bassist Don Was, the trio offered a stripped down sound covering tunes from Bob’s solo work, a couple of Bob Dylan gems, and unique takes on Grateful Dead classics.
The first set started with Bobby led Dead staples, “Jack Straw”, “Cassidy”, and the John Philips penned “Me and My Uncle”. Lane shared on the vocal duties during “Jack Straw” and throughout the night in spots. Weir, who was also celebrating his 71st birthday, stayed on electric guitar for the first three songs before going acoustic for “Only a River” and the start of “She Belong’s to Me”. Bobby switched back and forth from playing electric and acoustic guitar all evening, sometimes switching guitars in the middle of a song and nodding over to Don Was who was always ready to take a solo. A smooth segue of “Ashes and Glass”-> “Don’t Let Go” ->”Ashes and Glass” closed out the first frame highlighted by some tight Type 1 jamming, with a sing-a-long “Happy Birthday” sung to Bobby as his wife presented him with a cake onstage before the set-break.
The second set started with a crisp “Peggy-O” before a Janis Joplin themed pairing of “Me and Bobby McGee” and an exploratory “Bird Song”. The trio’s dissident, raw sound continued shining through “Corrina” as the energy in the venue built, releasing in a funked out version of “The Music Never Stopped”. The Dylan original “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” kept the momentum going as a surprise “China Cat Sunflower” >“I Know You Rider” closed the set in fine fashion.
The solo “Touch of Grey” encore brought the night to an end, a show that sort of felt like Bobby and his Wolf Bros buddies playing in your living room all evening. Weir’s trading of guitars all night was interesting to absorb audibly, as was his playing style going back-and-forth between rhythm and lead strumming as the lone guitarist leading the band. Based on last night’s performance Weir fans can expect intimate shows punctuated by a uniquely situated sound as the tour goes from West to East over the next month. This is a special project worth catching if you have the chance to see a show before the tour closer in NYC on November, 19th.