“Something wasn’t right,” Bob Weir said Thursday night after he muffed the lyrics during his opening song, a jaunty “The Music Never Stopped.” The cagey, veteran performer quickly recovered, and finished the song with no further mishaps. Of course, the adoring crowd ate it up, and screamed for more, not caring for perfection, which has never been what the Grateful Dead and its many offshoots have been about.
Over the course of the two sets at the Paramount Theater, Weir entertained the faithful in fine fashion. The second set was played with opener Jackie Greene, who has become a favorite of Deadheads over the last year, due to his playing with Weir and also with Phil Lesh and Friends.
If there was any sort of theme to the evening, it might have been Bob Dylan songs. Weir dropped in three Dylan covers during his two sets, and Greene debuted a fine version of “4th Time Around” during his set, singing in almost pitch-perfect Dylan style.
Hearing acoustic reworkings of many Dead faves can be a treat, especially if you don’t bring in expectations of how things should sound. Weir’s take on the classic “El Paso” brought the crowd to its feet early in the first set.
Weir’s guitar playing has often been criticized by fans of the cult of Jerry Garcia, but as he demonstrated on Thursday night, he is a capable player in his own right. His guitar work on “Peggy-O” was almost enough to offset the rather scratchy and rough singing, which really didn’t go over well on the folk standard.
The quality of the first set dropped with Weir’s song “Corina,” which dragged on too long, but Weir did find a groove again on the set-closing “Not Fade Away,” slowly fading out his guitar playing and letting the crowd sing the anthemic chorus.
The show really took off when Jackie Greene sat in for the second set, and it proved that Weir benefits from having a foil to play off of, someone who can rein his tendency toward excess back in.
After the third Dylan song of the show, a solid “All Along the Watchtower,” Greene’s guitar solos found a perfect backdrop in Weir’s rhythm playing on the classic Garcia tune “West L.A. Fadeaway.” Green switched to banjo for “Bird Song,” playing some of the same lines as Garcia used to in his solo, but using a rolling fingerpicking style to great effect at on a long jam.
Weir brought things full circle at the end, as out of a jam on a cover of Delbert McClinton’s “Standing on Shaky Ground,” he returned to “Not Fade Away” and closed with the second verse of the song. After he and Jackie took a quick bow, they left the stage and the house lights came back on, leaving the fans without an encore to go home to.
The Music Never Stopped, Maggie’s Farm, Bombs Away, El Paso, The Winners, Peggy-O, Loose Lucy, Corina, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, Not Fade Away
All Along the Watchtower, West L.A. Fadeaway, Bird Song, Most of the Time, Standing on Shaky Ground-> Not Fade Away