Bob Weir - live solo acoustic
Bob Weir is the guy from the Grateful Dead who wasn't Jerry Garcia. You know him, and his voice. He did 'Truckin', their biggest hit aside from 'Touch of Grey'. Bob has been with Garcia and the Dead since he was 16. He has also spent virtually all that time overshadowed by Jerry... in every possible sense.
For example, I have tons and tons of Grateful Dead live shows: bootlegs, dvd's, official releases - the works. On almost every one, it is impossible to hear Bobby's guitar. Even when Bobby sings (which is 50% of the time, that is why its sad how marginalized he's become). It was easy to marginalize him, we thought. He didn't seem like a great talent on guitar, and not nearly as enigmatic as Jerry. I knew Bobby was good, though. I saw him about 20 years ago do a live acoustic show with Rob Wasserman. It was terrific. He did stripped down versions of a lot of his hits.
I never thought Bobby was great, though. If ANYONE is being honest, they will tell you the same. We all took Bobby and Phil for granted. That was until recently. A few years ago, he started an online recording studio, TRI studios. He does songs with friends, in really high def quality, and gets the chance to shine. Watch this: holy shit. Bobby is amazing, and I nevet knew it. He really is a good guitar player. It is tough when you sit next to Jerry for 40 years. I regard Jerry Garcia as unquestionably the best guitarist in all of rock. I put him higher than Hendrix, Stevie Ray.
Jerry has been gone for almost 20 years now. So, we have had to lean on Bobby, and Bobby has delivered in every way. Everyone left in the Grateful Dead continued to tour after Jerry passed. They have been in many difference incarnations, and rarely have all the survivors played together. Also, they wisely forever dropped the moniker 'Grateful Dead' after Jerry passed. Here are just a few bands off the top of my head that have spawned in the wake of Jerry's passing: ratdog, futhur, the Dead, Phil and friends, 7 walkers, scaring the children...
Back to Bobby. Bobby joined the band when he was 16. Bobby is 66 now. He has spent his entire life in the Grateful Dead family. Bobby is always on tour, generally with 2 or 3 different bands. Last year, he did a solo acoustic tour... which is pretty much all I have been waiting for. I find nothing on earth better than a talented musician alone with an acoustic guitar. Example - I got to see Elton John do a solo show. Just him and a piano. It was probably the best concert I have ever been to. It is also something Elton John does not ever do, for some reason. On the other hand, if you gave me free tickets to see Elton John with an entire orchestra (which is how he tours) I wouldn't be interested. Another example - Dave Matthews band is great. Dave Matthews solo acoustic is transcendent and amazing and life affirming. I am lucky enough to have seen him many times like this.
So, Bobby Weir sitting on stage by himself with an acoustic doing all his Dead hits is the best thing on Earth. In fact, a year before this I actually reached out to his production company and offered to book and promote Bobby doing a solo show. He had been doing many one off nights as a solo act, but never a proper tour. I wasn't sure how good it would be, though. Like I said, he isn't known as a great anything. He was great. He was amazing. he was also chatty, and funny, and engaging. Yes, Bobby talks. No doy, you say. Here is the thing, though; the Grateful Dead NEVER EVER spoke on stage. Not a single word, not ever. There was no 'it's great to be here in Denver', or 'this next one is a classic'. Nothing. Not ever a word. It appears that was a Jerry Garcia rule of sorts, because both Bob and Phil are chatty bastards. Of course, you would be too after 40 years of being pent up on stage.
I got to see him play a nice and small venue - Paramount Theater - in downtown Denver, CO. We also had great seats. I am used to seeing the boys in a football stadium. Or, of course, Red Rocks. Seeing Bobby up close in this small venue felt more like hanging out in his living room. It was intimate, and Bobby worked hard to make it so.
I was also curious as to how a Dead song would hold up on a single instrument. See, there are a zillion members of the Dead. They even had 2 drummers. So how would Bobby do? What would Bobby do? I got to see he is a hell of a guitar player, and a very unique style.
He opened with awesome 'Music Never Stopped'. This is such a great song. I mean, look at this lyric, it tells you everything. "the sun went down in honey. The moon came up in wine". Aw heck, just watch this.
The night was amazing. He looked and sounded amazing. His song choice was terrific. Like Jerry's solo shows, half the set was Dylan songs. This is always fine by me.
Like Dead shows, there was no set list. That is something unique to the Grateful Dead... no set list. I know virtually everything about music, and I can tell you there is NO band who doesn't do a setlist. Now, some bands will do a setlist the day of the show (like Pearl Jam). Most bands, though, do the exact same set from night to night. This is for practical reasons, like lighting cues and guitar changes. The Dead, though (like Bobby and Jerry solo) make up the setlist as the show goes on. So, note, two pieces are unique to the Grateful Dead and it's members subsequent tours: no setlist, and a different show every night. This was practical for the Dead, as fans follow the band from city. No one wants to go on tour and here the same songs. So, this way... not only do you not know what songs are coming up... neither does the band.
Like Phil, we took Bob for granted. We gave all our love and focus and energy to Jerry. It was easy to do, I assure you. Only when we lost Jerry did we stop to appreciate the others, and their musicianship and contributions. Recently, Bobby canceled all of his remaining dates for 2014for health reasons. This scares me, since Bobby has never canceled a tour in 50 years. If you get the chance, go see Bobby. Ideally, if you can, see Bobby and Phil together. God, between Dead shows and their offshoot bands, I have probably seen them together between 30 and 40 times. Problem is, they are getting old and slowing down. Phil isn't really touring anymore, understandably. He's in his 70's and has been living in a tour bus for 50 years. With Bob's recent health scare, who knows what the future holds.
Let me tell you, though; these guys have absolutely gotten better with age. Most musicians get better with age. Except... singers generally lose their higher range. Well, Bobby sounds exactly the same as when I started chasing the band back in 1989. Dig this, I lucked out. My first Grateful Dead show was filmed at released. I was at this show. Also, quite awesomely, some of these Bobby solo shows are for sale. I highly recommend getting one. Actually, get as many as you can. As I mentioned, the songs changed from night to night.