Bob Weir takes Vail on a journey again
It wasn’t just “One More Saturday Night” for Bob Weir and Wolf Bros: It was the first Saturday night the band had played to a live, sold-out crowd since the pandemic shut down music venues.
The band’s summer tour started with a two-night stint at Red Rocks Tuesday night, followed by the Ford Amphitheater’s shows, Friday and Saturday. Weir called his first night being back together at Red Rocks a “holy” event after being “cooped up,” according to online “loud.com” writer Pedro Acosta.
Friday and Saturday night, the band continued to give Deadheads their long-awaited dose of energy. In true form, the band took the crowd on a music journey, riding waves of alternating mellow jams and spirited tunes.
They opened with an old-timey version of “Bertha” followed by a groovin’ “I Need a Miracle” and “Loser.”
Weir introduced “Ramble on Rose” through a short story about Wynonna Judd singing it at a Nashville session, saying she did “a hell of a job” and encouraging everyone to look up the version online.
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Through tunes like “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Saint of Circumstance,” the Wolf Pack (violinist Mads Tolling, trombonist Adam Theis, trumpeter Brian Switzer, cellist Alex Kelly and Sheldon Brown on woodwinds) added to the already full and robust sounds created by Weir, bassist Don Was, drummer Jay Lane, pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.
“The whole band adds so much energy — they can really pull off those Dead tunes,” said Ryan Anderson, who traveled from Olympia, WA, with his wife for Friday and Saturday’s shows in Vail.
Since 1986, Anderson had been a dedicated Deadhead, but Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995 coincided with his first year of medical school, which brought his days of following the band to a screeching halt. That is, until a buddy invited him to the Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows in 2015. With Dead & Company’s incarnation that same year, Anderson began following the musicians again, hitting at least a dozen shows throughout the nation annually. This year, he has tickets for 17 shows, including Playing in the Sand concerts in Mexico.
He said Friday’s show had a Western, cowboy vibe to it with tunes like “Tennessee Jed,” “Big River” and “El Paso.” After talking about the late and innovative bassist Rob Wasserman adding a “13th bar,” Weir went into “Little Red Rooster” Friday night.
“It was just unreal,” Anderson said. “I had goosebumps from my head all the way down to my toes. He was just crowing like rooster.”
Anderson perceived the last two tunes of Saturday night’s first set — “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance” as Weir’s “nod to the pandemic.”
“(‘Lost Sailor’) is a song about being lost at sea and finding your way back home, which is really what we’ve all been through for the last year and a half,” Anderson said.
The band’s second set included a rousing and energetic version of “Mama Tried” and a harmonic “Only a River,” which they also performed Friday.
Weir’s voice was fresh and strong all night. He played Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and tunes like “Bird Song,” “Lady with a Fan” and “Terrapin Station” and took the audience on an upbeat, danceable jam exploration, with a bit of masterful discordance and mellow grooves thrown in. The band ended with “One More Saturday Night.” With this last tune, all of the Dead’s experience and power playing in huge stadiums came across: The band flooded the little Ford Amphitheater with explosive energy and celebration.
After a hugely enthusiastic standing ovation (which, really, could describe the entire show) the band bid a harmonic goodbye with its encore: “Brokedown Palace.”
As always, the Ford Amphitheater’s intimate, outdoor venue made for what Anderson called two “magical” nights. The laidback atmosphere allowed those like Anderson, who came out for their first concert since the pandemic and felt a little nervous about what it’d be like, feel at ease.
“The Ford Amphitheater has such a great, mellow vibe, I think it’s because it’s so small and intimate. You don’t have the big crowd size, so everything’s so relaxed,” he said. “The crowd was relaxed — it wasn’t a stampede. It was a pleasant way to step back into the concert environment.”