Let’s get this out of the way at the outset; I fucking hate The Grateful Dead.
I made a concerted effort in my freshman year of college to like them. Albums. Bootlegs. Stories from friends who followed them across the country. But, in the end, they not only didn’t connect with me but upset me. How could you have that many people on stage and still sound so noodle-y and flaccid?
Yet here I was, 20 years later, dating a Deadhead that wanted me to go see Bob Weir. I was prepared for the worst.
What I didn’t expect was that Bob Weir And Wolf Bros would actually be good.
Sure, there was the wombat dancing in the aisles. And the folks looking for “miracles” outside the Chicago Theatre. (And let the record show I did give one of those folks my extra ticket, making me an accomplice to Dead-ism.)
But, the music was good! Bob Weir looked like the Lorax (no joke). Don Was was Don Was, Jay Layne played amazing drums and halfway through the set, as I worried I was turning into some ultra-dimensional hippy, I realized why I was actually enjoying myself.
The Dead had (have?) a history of a bajillion people onstage making not so much noise as sonic soup. In the form of a trio, Weir was able to focus his talents on simply interpreting songs and delivering them with maximum impact. He reinterpreted covers of songs that I thought I already knew and brought new dimensions to them. He did noodle, but it seemed to have more purpose than the dozens of bootlegs I’d heard from his parent band. And most importantly, I finally figured out that 70% of what makes a good Dead show is the crowd; something that had escaped me in the past.
So, I’m not reformed and suddenly a fan of the Dead, but this show was a small revelation that if you split the members apart, they may be capable of something great instead of just mutual contributors to a tepid stew.
Also, they played “Ripple,” my favorite Jane’s Addiction cover of all time. So maybe that had an effect on me too.