Bob Weir - Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros: Live in Colorado, Vol. 2 Music Album Reviews

Bob Weir - Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros: Live in Colorado, Vol. 2 Music Album Reviews
On a striking live set, the Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist and vocalist stages some of the band’s most beloved material with passion and reverence.

How fast should a Grateful Dead song be played? There is perhaps no question that has occupied Deadheads’ time and consumed more emotion over the last 20 or so years, ever since bassist Phil Lesh and guitarist Bob Weir reunited the band after Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death. The tempo wars have claimed several versions of the post-Garcia Dead, and if the question seems banal, it nevertheless conceals irreconcilable philosophical differences. For Lesh, these songs are meant to pump with energy, swirling up the audience in a psychedelic dervish. For Weir, they should be played slowly, with purpose and focus, “an audio playlet that needed to sink into the audience’s mind,” as writer Joel Selvin puts it. The music of the Grateful Dead, in Weir’s formulation, is bigger, vaster, and contains sweeping views; why speed through it?

On Weir’s second official release with his Wolf Bros project, Live in Colorado, Vol. 2, he stages some of the most beloved material in the Grateful Dead’s catalog with the passion and reverence of a couple spending their 50th anniversary looking back on their wedding day. It’s a striking set, one that does justice to Weir’s vision without ever succumbing to the sense of drag that can occasionally topple Dead & Company, the stadium-touring band he fronts with John Mayer. As is typically the case with Weir’s solo work, there is no lead guitarist, and thus no attempt to dig around in the DNA of these songs to discover what else they might contain. Leaning instead on bassist Don Was, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and especially drummer Jay Lane, Weir’s arrangements expand these songs outward, their scope and sense of majesty evoked by the horns, strings, and pedal steel of the accompanying Wolfpack ensemble. There’s never a question as to where we might be going, only an offhanded awe at how stately this music turns out to be.

Much of the album’s grace is owing to the pleasant contrast between Weir’s late style as a rhythm guitarist and the slickness of the band. His instrument is constantly buzzing, and he doesn’t strum it so much as brush at it in a way that makes it sound like a live wire being batted with a feather. He can be halting, sometimes a touch behind the beat, frequently rough as he roots around the edges of the songs in search of new rhythmic pathways. It’s a winningly hardheaded mode of playing, one that comes from having abandoned the concept of perfection or completion decades ago, and the romantic swirl of the band mimics the emotion of his playing if not the tone. It’s strangely comforting to hear them polish Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” as if Weir’s blocky soloing is a totally normal way for a guitar to sound in a country song.

Like Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions band, the ensemble is founded on the principle that folk music can also be dance music. Where the former group’s cavalcade of trombones and fiddles overflowed with ecstasy, Weir’s group is swishier and more straightlaced, occasionally coming off like a soul revue. In “The Other One,” they circle around the rhythm, the horns and piano coaxing Weir into the vocals like the JBs playing their boss onto the stage. They turn “Eyes of the World” into a ballroom shuffle that’s dewy with nostalgia, Chimenti throwing complicated chords that resound like questions and playing his way in and out of key like Thelonious Monk. The band sidesteps into “What’s Going On” in a starry-eyed flow state, with Weir altering Marvin Gaye’s lyrics to decry “culture wars”—a dodgy move for any white artist covering a Black singer—and equivocating the original’s source of power. “Let’s hope that love will conquer hate,” he sings, his uncertainty regarding its efficacy at least in keeping with the doubt-riddled ethos of the Dead’s songbook.

The Dead, after all, were not a reverential band. “Ripple” feints in the direction of psalmody, but it refuses to resolve itself, and makes a point of insisting that the listener has the imperative and responsibility to find their own way in the world. On Live in Colorado, the crowd is kept high in the mix as the band rounds into the song’s last verse, their collective rendition of the wordless coda making the entire thing feel like last call at a honky tonk. Weir takes “Brokedown Palace” to its vocal limits, fluttering the high notes like he’s waving goodbye along with the thousands of people singing the “fare thee well” chorus. Both songs are standout tracks from 1970’s American Beauty, and high points in the Dead catalog at large, but like any hymn, they achieve brilliance when they’re sung loudly and in earnest by a whole lot of people.

Across the Dead’s songbook, ambiguity and imperfection are spiritual principles to which one must submit oneself. “His job is to shed light, and not to master,” Weir sings of the storyteller in “Terrapin Station,” the song suite presented here in its entirety. The original band never performed “Terrapin Station” all the way through, and on Live in Colorado, the track’s 21 minutes are stitched together from a pair of performances, with Wolf Bros. having played the first half one night and the second half the next.

It’s one of the more beguiling songs Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter ever wrote: The opening guitar line, one of Garcia’s most delicate, seems to weave itself into being, and Hunter’s lyric uses a tale of thwarted love to suggest that heaven isn’t a place we set out to find so much as the product of the quest itself. Weir makes his way through the song with care, his oaken tone bringing a new level of gravitas to a song that’s already been invested with plenty of it. He knows how to rest the melody, dropping into a speaking voice for half a line, sharpening the story and drawing the listener in closer. Even if the technique is the byproduct of age—and his stunning performance on a dark and drifting “Days Between” suggests that Weir has greater control over his voice now than he ever has—the way his vocal ebbs and flows, gathering strength and spending it, reflects the song’s imperative to push onward despite knowing one’s limitations. Fifty-five years into a career that continues to take surprising and emotionally affecting shape, it suggests that Weir’s greatest audience is himself.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Bob Weir - Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros: Live in Colorado, Vol. 2 Music Album Reviews Bob Weir - Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros: Live in Colorado, Vol. 2 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 20, 2022 Rating: 5


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