Bob Weir brought his newest project, The Wolf Brothers, to The Taft Theatre in Cincinnati on Wednesday night for an intimate and impressive performance that satisfied the theater full of his loyal fans. With a catalog as impressive and extensive as Weir’s, the band was able to curate a fantastic show full of songs spanning all of Weir’s career with The Grateful Dead as well as his side projects, solo work, and even some covers thrown in for good measure.
The trio known as The Wolf Brothers consists of leader Bob Weir on vocals and guitar, veteran music producer Don Was on bass (who has produced artists such as Ringo Starr, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones), and Weir’s longtime bandmate from RatDog Jay Lane on drums.
Before the show even began, the theater was abuzz with enthusiastic deadheads, many who were eager to see The Wolf Bros. for their first time. A small but vivacious shakedown street was set-up in the parking lot near the venue, and the elegant architecture and beautiful theatre set the tone for a what felt like a classy evening getting ready to begin.
The Wolf Brothers started the show off with a bang, opening with Grateful Dead classic Friend of the Devil as Weir played his acoustic guitar. After that, they continued with The Winners, a Weir & Wasserman song. The band’s chemistry was solid, and the music was refined, yet it had the looseness and freeform that gives Weir’s style so much life.
The band continued to explore Weir’s catalog next with a Lay My Lily Down, a song off his most recent solo album, Blue Mountain, which had the crowd singing along joyfully. Before picking up his electric guitar, Weir treated the crowd to one more acoustic song- Me and My Uncle, originally a John Phillips song which has become a favorite from The Grateful Dead catalog and which was being performed for the first time of the tour.
The music stopped long enough for Bobby to switch guitars before jumping right into an incredible electric rendition of Loose Lucy, another first for this tour. The crowd’s enthusiasm really began to intensify during this jam. Don Was played his stand-up bass so smoothly and naturally while keeping the song’s groove at the forefront of the music. His talent and natural chemistry with Weir and Lane, who have shared the stage together for years, was obvious to anyone in attendance.
After that, they played Eternity, another Grateful Dead tune followed by an incredible Ashes and Glass, which transformed effortlessly into Don’t Let Go, before transitioning back into Ashes and Glass to finish their first set.
Before you knew it, the band had returned to the stage and kicked the second set off with a dreamy rendition of Playing in the Band, which segued into The Music Never Stopped. It is impressive the way the band gave new life to Grateful Dead songs and put their own unique twist on tunes that have been played countless times by Bob Weir’s various bands and side projects. The stripped-down roster of musicians produces an authentic yet filtered outcome that kept these classic songs interesting and fun.
Without stopping the music, just like the song says, they transitioned into Easy Answers, a Rob Wasserman cover, before bringing the jam back into The Music Never Stopped. The trio continued into another pair of Grateful Dead songs with Lost Sailor, which started out slow but grew into a blues-heavy jam by the end. Lost Sailor led right into Saint of Circumstance allowing the momentum from the first song to carry into the second.
One of the show’s highlights was an incredibly psychedelic version of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows, which took the extended jam as far as three musicians could possibly take it before welcoming the crowd back to the familiarity of the lyrics. Don Was’ grooving bass danced around Lane’s drum fills, all of which echoed through Weir’s guitar playing.
The second set continued with I Need a Miracle, another tune that had the crowd singing along, which led into Wharf Rat before coming to a strong finish with the toe-tapping, feel-good classic Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.
Due to time restrictions, the band was only able to play one encore, so they left the crowd feeling hopeful and satisfied with an intimate and powerful version of Touch of Grey.
This show marks Weir’s fourth visit to Cincinnati in just over two years. Twice with Dead & Company during their summer tour and once with Bob Weir and the Campfire Band.
Set 1: Friend of the Devil, The Winners, Lay My Lily Down, Me and My Uncle, Loose Lucy, Eternity, Ashes and Glass > Don’t Let Go > Ashes and Glass
Set 2: Playing in the Band > The Music Never Stopped > Easy Answers > The Music Never Stopped, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > Tomorrow Never Knows > I Need a Miracle > Wharf Rat > Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Encore: Touch of Grey