The presence of any member of the Grateful Dead brings out old tourheads and younger fans who wish they’d been on the bus back in the day. At the Boulder Theater Saturday night, Bob Weir shared the stage with Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson and folk artist Jackie Greene, who has been carving out a niche for himself with former Dead musicians, as he also played with Phil Lesh at the 1stBank Center in February.
Walking up to the venue Saturday night, I was serenaded by someone doing an off-key version of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” offered “free hugs,” and navigated past dozens of fans begging for a miracle ticket. It seems that some things about a Dead-related event simply don’t change.
Except perhaps the music. While Furthur gives the faithful what they want (the closest to Jerry they can get), Weir, Robinson and Greene take a variety of Dead standards and other songs and give them a unique spin, bringing in bluegrass, folk and blues elements while strumming on acoustic guitars and, in the case of Greene, a banjo and mandolin. Hearing Weir stretch into unfamiliar places is a treat, and Robinson’s vocals and Greene’s melodic strumming breathe new life into the tunes.
The trio opened the first of two sets with “Truckin'” with Weir singing the well-worn road ballad in fine style. From there, many of the vocal duties were split, often in the same song. Greene stepped into mountain ballad terrain on “Love Please Come Home,” while Robinson, wearing a Colorado flag T-shirt, showcased his outstanding pipes on “East Virginia Blues.”
It would have been easy for the trio to tread water and keep everybody in attendance happy, but instead, they ended the first set with each member playing two songs completely solo. Greene ripped into “Gone Wonderin'” while Robinson’s take on “Lost My Driving Wheel” hit all the right emotional buttons.
Weir then came on for his solo spot, taking the Boulder Theater on a journey with the intricate “Weather Report Suite” and “Let It Grow,” which he said he did by request. While he flubbed a couple of notes on the technically-demanding intro, he quickly steadied, and picked up steam on “Let It Grow.”
After a relatively short set break, the three charged back in the second set, hitting great vocal harmonies on “Deal” before launching into a brilliant rendition of “Dark Star.” On “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” they crushed the dynamics, alternating whisper-quiet verses with transcendent vocal harmonies on the chorus.
The rest of the set was more standard, including the obligatory “One More Saturday Night,” and a somewhat lackluster “Ripple” encore that gave the audience plenty of room to sing along.
Love Please Come Home
East Virginia Blues
Reflections Of A Broken Mirror
Lost My Driving Wheel
Weather Report Suite >
Let It Grow
Wake Up Little Susie
Dark Star >
Death Don’t Have No Mercy >
Easy To Slip
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
One More Saturday Night
Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder based photographer of everything, a self-professed music junkie and regular contributor to Reverb. Check his photos out on Facebook or his website.