After giving fans a little more than 24 hours notice, Bob Weir & Wolf Bros played a pair of abridged shows on Monday night at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club complete with a special guest and complex, intricate setlists.
For the early show – which began just a few minutes after 8 p.m. – the band offered a mix of favorites accrued over the band’s ongoing spring tour, but spiced things up with persistent references to perhaps the Grateful Dead’s jazziest composition, “Dark Star.”
The show began with a nebulous jam that morphed into the opening bars of “Dark Star,” and it wasn’t long before Weir and company welcomed former RatDog sax player Kenny Brooks to riff on a segment of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” (Brooks served in RatDog from 2000-2012.)
Eventually, the band found their way into “Fever,” the mid-’50s, Little Willie John favorite that’s a fairly new tune for the trio (they debuted it on March 4 in Cleveland). In time, a tease of “Dark Star” returned again, and Weir, Brooks, bassist Don Was and drummer Jay Lane jammed smoothly into “Easy To Slip.”
Another, brief tease of “Dark Star” led to “Playing in the Band” (sans Brooks) eliciting several cheers from the audience. (It’s also worth noting that Weir’s longtime GD bandmate Phil Lesh and his son/Terrapin Family Band guitarist Grahame Lesh were spotted in the crowd enjoying the intimate offering by Weir and the Wolf Bros.)
“Playing in the Band” eventually gave way to a “Supplication Jam” and Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” which really shined in the Blue Note’s close quarters. The jam eventually returned to the same jazzy, freeform motifs heard earlier, and Brooks hit the stage once more to give the improvisation another, crowd-pleasing segue into “Dark Star,” complete with vocals by Weir.
The band didn’t stop as they kicked into the first show’s rowdiest moment, as “Playing in the Band” emerged one last time to end the set.
Weir noted that a crowd was gathering outside for the later show and the current audience had “got to get out of here” so the band quickly encored their with “Ripple” and the Blue Note was swept empty for the Wolf Bros second offering of the night.
The late show opened in a similarly jazzy way as the first, with the Weir/Wasserman tune “Eternity” (with lyrics written by Willie Dixon). The jam then led into a pair of John Coltrane tunes, “Tunji” and “Equinox” with additional instrumentation by Brooks. Then following a quick applause break they delivered another emotive ballad, Bob Dylan’s “Most of the Time.”
“New Speedway Boogie” was next, and fans rode the song’s wave as it eventually crashed into “Morning Dew” and a set-closing “Not Fade Away,” which acted as Brooks final song of the evening. (Interestingly, “Not Fade Away” was one of the few times the audience could be heard during either performance at the Blue Note. Most of the time, the crowd complied with the venue’s more reserved environment. However, “Not Fade Away” elicited plenty of sing-a-longs and claps.)
Weir & the Wolf Bros encored their late show with a reprise of “Not Fade Away,” along with another Buddy Holly favorite “Oh Boy!”
Watch both shows and check out each setlist below:
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros
Blue Note Jazz Club, New York City
Dark Star> A Love Supreme*> Fever*> Easy to Slip*> Playing in the Band> Supplication Jam> When I Paint My Masterpiece> Supplication Jam*> Dark Star*> Playing in the Band*
Eternity > Tunji* > Equinox* > Bird Song*, Most of the Time, New Speedway Boogie > Morning Dew > Not Fade Away*
Enc: Not Fade Away> Oh Boy!
Notes: *with Kenny Brooks on sax