Friday, October 19, 2018

Bob Weir And Wolf Bros. at Theatre At Ace Hotel, 10-18-18 Concert Review

Bob Weir And Wolf Bros. performing "Dear Prudence"
Last night Bob Weir brought his new trio, Bob Weir And Wolf Bros., to the Theatre At Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Of course, as soon as the show had been announced, fans were remarking how appropriate the venue was for Bob Weir, and wondering how much Bob would play from his 1972 “solo” album Ace (“solo” is in quotation marks, because all the Grateful Dead members play on it, with the exception of Pigpen). It turns out, actually, that he wouldn’t play a single song from that album, which was a bit of a surprise. There were a couple of other surprises during the show, but that’s getting ahead of myself.

I had never been to the venue before, but had heard it was relatively small. And, indeed, the capacity is 1,600, making the Theatre At Ace Hotel a wonderfully intimate place to see a Grateful Dead-related show. It’s a beautiful, ornate venue, with fairly comfortable seats (not that we’d be seated during the show, of course). The concert was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., but folks were still finding their seats at that point.  At 7:21 p.m., the house lights went out, and moments later the trio of Bob Weir on guitar, Don Was on upright bass, and Jay Lane on drums came out on stage (I love Jay’s furry drums). And while the stage was bathed in a pretty purple light, Bob led the trio into “Easy To Slip,” a Little Feat song that Bob included on his 1978 release Heaven Help The Fool. Bob repeated the phrase “Nothing at all,” and the song included a sweet, mellow jam. Bob introduced “Deep Elem Blues” as a song that goes back a ways. The trio set a damn good groove and jammed on the song before getting to the lyrics, and also jammed again after a couple of verses. The crowd sang along with the chorus.

The only track from Bob Weir’s relatively recent Blue Mountain to be played last night was “Gonesville,” and it was an enjoyable version, with a bit of jamming. That was followed by “Loose Lucy,” which felt perhaps a bit slow, but was good, with a kind of blues groove. “Thank you for a real good time.” (Earlier in the day, I had been watching a video of the Grateful Dead performing “Loose Lucy” in 1990 at a show I attended near Buffalo.)

For “West L.A. Fadeaway,” Bob Weir switched to electric guitar. As the song was starting, the guy behind me and I recognized it simultaneously. Another guy behind me told me the Red Sox were winning, 4-0. All right! Bob Weir flubbed a line, or came in too early, then joked about it by walking up to the microphone and not saying a thing. The next line of the song, coincidentally was “Met an old mistake,” which the crowd appreciated. Anyway, it was an excellent, cool rendition, a fine choice for this setting, this band configuration, giving it a somewhat more gritty feel. You know? For me, it was the highlight of the first set. It was followed by “Scarlet Begonias,” which seemed to surprise and delight everyone. There might have been a couple of bad notes on guitar, or perhaps I was just high. Yes. Certainly high, because at a certain point I thought I was hearing “Fire On The Mountain,” but then Bob began the last verse of “Scarlet Begonias,” and the band – rather than going into “Fire” – followed that with “Easy Answers.” I didn’t like this song in 1993 when the Grateful Dead introduced it, and I don’t care all that much for it now either. For a moment, it seemed like the trio was going to do a Chuck Berry number to close the first set. But no, it ended there with “Easy Answers,” leaving us on ground level rather than lifting us to some glorious heights to tide us over until the second set. It wasn’t necessarily a bad version, but the song just always felt flat to me. The first set ended at 8:22 p.m.

During the set break, another vocal microphone stand was placed on stage.  I took a pee and refilled my water bottle – two separate actions, those – then went back to my seat, ready for the second set and knowing the Red Sox are going to the World Series. Yes, they won the game against Houston at the end of the first set. We had Red Sox fans directly behind us and next to us, so there was a small celebration in our section during the break. At 9:11 p.m., the lights went out, and a moment later the guys took the stage. Bob opened the second set with “Lost Sailor.” There was no cheer from the audience on the line “Where’s the dog star?” I guess everyone could finally tell he was not saying “dark star.” This was a really good rendition. “Drift away.” Oh yes! As you’d expect, it led directly into “Saint Of Circumstance,” which began with a great burst of energy. “This must be heaven,” indeed. A woman behind me shouted nervously, “I’m not going down there.” And, yes, I could see how the aisle might seem a steep drop into a fiery pit, with the orange lights on stage, and everyone facing forward expectantly, like for some strange religious rite. I was having a bit of trouble maintaining a strong footing myself. “Saint Of Circumstance” was excellent, by the way.

Then Bob switched to acoustic guitar, and announced to the crowd, “We’re going to bring out Perry Farrell.” And, yeah, Perry Farrell, the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction, joined the band. He sang backing vocals – as well as lead on a verse or two – on “Friend Of The Devil.” This was a faster rendition, closer to the original from American Beauty rather than the way the Dead played it in the 1980s and 1990s. It was an interesting and playful version, with some odd stops, and the whole crowd singing along. There were some funny moments, like when Perry Farrell started to come in too early. He laughed, and the audience cheered him. Hey, it’s okay, just relax and enjoy yourself. Bob included that extra verse (the “You can borrow from the devil, babe, you can borrow from a friend” verse). After the song, Perry Farrell joked about fucking up and about the audience applauding. “It didn’t hurt so bad,” he said. That was followed by a surprise, a cover of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ “Breakdown,” with Perry Farrell singing lead. Very cool, and the crowd was digging it. Before leaving the stage, Perry gave Bob a hug. Bob led us all in thanking him.

Another surprise followed: “Althea.” It’s no rarity or anything; I was just surprised to hear it without John Mayer there to sing it, since we all know how much he loves that song. It was nice hearing Bob’s take on it, with him repeating “This space is getting hot,” feeding the crowd. That was followed by “New Speedway Boogie,” which took me a moment to recognize. This version had a cool, bluesy jam, with Jay Lane at one point doing a little “ch chhh” on the microphone. The jam then started to rock. “This darkness got to give.” No kidding. That led straight into “The Other One,” an odd but oddly effective song in this configuration. This song seems to be different every time it’s played, and this rendition had a cool vibe, with a nice jam before the first verse. That was followed by an okay take on “Dear Prudence,” which led straight to the set’s closing number, a really good version of “Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad,” with everyone singing along. It started to really rock, with the ending drawn out. The encore was my favorite song of all time, “Ripple,” a song I am always happy to hear, even if Bob messes up the lyrics (he started to sing the song's final line much too early). The show ended at 10:34 p.m.

Set List

Set I
  1. Easy To Slip
  2. Deep Elem Blues
  3. Gonesville
  4. Loose Lucy
  5. West L.A. Fadeaway
  6. Scarlet Begonias >
  7. Easy Answers 
Set II
  1. Lost Sailor >
  2. Saint Of Circumstance
  3. Friend Of The Devil
  4. Breakdown
  5. Althea
  6. New Speedway Boogie >
  7. The Other One
  8. Dear Prudence >
  9. Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad 
  1. Ripple
The stage before the show started (check out the furry drums)

 The Theater At Ace Hotel is located at 929 S. Broadway in Los Angeles, California.

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