It isnt often that someone like Bob Weir makes it a point to stop and play In Minnesota. Weir, one of the founding members of The Grateful Dead and now touring with the popular Dead and Company Group, formed a trio with bassist and famed producer Don Was, and former Ratdog Drummer Jay Lane. The Trio toured together last fall under the name “Bob Weir and Wolf Bros” playing small clubs and theatres around the west and east coasts. It was successful enough, in fact, that St.Paul was lucky enough to be able to host the trio at the Palace Theatre for an eary spring tour.
The atmosphere of the show still checked all the boxes of a Grateful Dead show, even if it was just to a lesser extent. Instead of a lot full of vendors selling bootleg tees, grilled cheese sandwhiches and playing their favorite shows from boom-boxes, only a one-man shakedown was set up a block down from the Palace, selling tee-shirts from the trunk of his Crown Vic. Inside, the Palace still had its share of plaid wearing IPA holders, but now it was mixed with other, older audience members with tie dye and the rare “American Beauty” APA from Dogfish head, which I personally had struggled to find in Minnesota. But one of the unique things I found about the concert was that it didn’t have the same atmosphere as most other shows do when you go to see these old american legends. There wasn’t any sort of begrudging “Im just here to see him before he dies” attitude among concertgoers. Nobody was here to say that they were there. There was still an aura of excitement in the air. Even if it was mixed with weed.
Weir, who is 71, took the same Improvisational approach to the show the same way his favorite jazz masters would have. Weir has often looked up to the styles of Davis and Coltrane, mimicking their styles over the neck of his guitar. This is what has made him a unique rhythm guitarist, but does it work in a setting where he is in charge of both rhythm and lead guitar? The beauty of Trio’s do lie in the intimacy of these shows, but also with the limitations of where the music can and cannot go. While the trio may not reach the same stratospheric climaxes that the dead were able to achieve, they do get close. And as long as you think of Weir’s guitar tone like a trumpet with a mute in it, giving it that extra tinny sound, I think you would really enjoy this show.
Don Was and Jay Lane were no slouches on their instruments throughout the show, able to keep up with the variety of music styles throughout the night. From the bouncy “Iko Iko” opener, to the slower “Lay My Lily Down” off Weir’s most recent solo record, Blue Mountain, and the uptemo Johnny Cash cover of “Big River” With a big cheer from the line in the song mentioning St. Paul. However, Bob seemed to keep the Dead songs away until late in the first set, closing with Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance” before a brief internmission.
The second set was much longer, and ended up being full of Dead classics the audience seemed to be waiting for. “Standing on Shakey Ground” and “Easy Answers” were both sandwiched in between “Music Never Stopped”, one large jam that seemed to go on for a half hour, before settling down with the trance-like “Warf Rat”. The concert also included a total of 3 Bob Dylan covers, which may or may not have to do with the concert’s location. The band played “Paint my Masterpiece” “All along the Watchtower” in the first and second sets respectively, and closed with “All over now Baby Blue”. But not before closing out the second set with “Not Fade Away” with the audicence clapping and chanting along long after the band had left the stage.
My only complaint on the evening was that Weir had been a bit quiet to the audince. Beyond a “Back after a short break” message before intermission and a “Thank you” at the end of the show, Weir and the band didnt address the audience much at all, making the evening more music focused. A small part of me had wished there was some sort of technical difficulty that would have allowed us to hear the “Yellow Dog Story” in person, which I would love to hear in the same way dedheads want to hear ‘’St. Stephen” at their show. But overall, the Wolf Bros trio is a delightful group, proving that good things still come in threes.