Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir assembled Bob Weir and Wolf Bros at his TRI Studios compound in San Rafael, California to record a concert that aired on New Year’s Eve. The core trio of Weir, bassist Don Was and drummer Jay Lane was joined by keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and pedal steel wiz Greg Leisz for the entire show with a five-piece horn and string section dubbed The Wolf Pack adding to a run of four songs after Bill Walton provided a countdown to 2021.
Famed Deadhead and Basketball Hall Of Famer Bill Walton was tapped to introduce the livestreamed special, which aired via FANS.live and began with a note about safety precautions taken and guidelines followed during production. “We were very careful and still managed to have fun recording this for you,” wrote Weir. “Please follow the CDC guidelines, be safe and enjoy the broadcast. Hope to see you on the road next summer or fall. Happy New Year.” Walton was dressed as Father Time and teased a countdown before hyping up what was in store.
The expanded Bob Weir & Wolf Bros lineup kicked off the first portion of their performance by pairing “New Speedway Boogie” and “Jack Straw.” Chimenti and Lane handled backing vocals throughout the night with Leisz’s pedal steel soaring in the mix. Next up was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” featuring Weir on acoustic. Bobby then went back to electric to front the Hunter/Garcia classics “Loser” and “Row Jimmy” split by a rollicking take on Johnny Cash’s “Big River.” The 70-minute first set concluded with a rousing “The Music Never Stopped” that included “Easy Answers” within.
A brief intermission gave viewers a chance to catch their breath before the five musicians returned to the screen with Weir on acoustic for “Friend Of The Devil.” Bobby then welcomed his old pal and longtime collaborator Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to lead the group through Jimmie Rodgers’ “Mule Skinner Blues.” Weir and Leisz both wore face coverings during Elliott’s appearance. The quintet continued without Ramblin’ Jack for the jazzy “Eternity.” The band jammed the song into “The Other One” before ending “Eternity.”
Bill Walton appeared again as Father Time in front of a psychedelic backdrop following the second batch of performances. Walton spoke of persevering through 2020 and urged viewers “to go for it for sure” in 2021. He then delivered a countdown into the New Year as dogs barked in the background.
The screen was then reset to find Bob Weir & Wolf Bros joined by The Wolf Pack in addition to Chimenti and Leisz. The Wolf Pack consists of cellist Alex Kelly, trumpeter Brian Switzer, trombonist Adam Theis, violinist Mads Tolling and Sheldon Brown on clarinet, flute and saxophone. Weir led the expanded ensemble through a “Dark Star” that gave way to “Cassidy” to kick off the third set of the special. The slightly extended “Cassidy” was followed by the Hunter/Garcia ballad “Days Between.” The Wolf Pack also added to a set-closing “Sugar Magnolia,” a song traditionally played by the Grateful Dead and projects featuring Weir on New Year’s Eve.
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros’ New Year’s Eve special came to a close with a two-song encore. Weir went back to acoustic for a tender “Ripple” that showcased both Chimenti and Leisz. The five-piece then ended the night by performing “Touch Of Grey,” complete with its fitting lyric of “we will get by.”
Watch Walton’s introduction and the first two songs of the special below:
Set One: New Speedway Boogie, Jack Straw, When I Paint My [email protected], Loser, Big River, Row Jimmy, The Music Never Stopped > Easy Answers > The Music Never Stopped
Set Two: Friend Of The [email protected], Muleskinner Blues (w/ Ramblin’ Jack Elliott), Eternity > The Other One > Eternity
Set Three: Countdown led by Bill Walton, Dark Star* > Cassidy*, Days Between* > Sugar Magnolia*
Encore: [email protected], Touch Of Grey
- @ – Bob Weir on acoustic
- * – w/ The Wolf Pack horns and strings
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