Review - Bob Weir's 75th Birthday Celebration Weekend w/ the Wolf Bros. @ the Warfield

Bob Weir & Jay Lane @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Bob Weir & Jay Lane @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

Bob Weir & Wolf Bros sailed into The Warfield for his 75th birthday this past weekend ready to celebrate, and they brought the creative wind of a 4-night symphony run at Washington’s Kennedy Center behind them.

When the Bobby Bus comes into town for a sold-out 3-night run (and on a weekend no less), it brings with it far more than just concert-goers. Market Street was converted into Shakedown Street and the air was filled with all the familiar sounds and smells as generations of Deadheads and the vendors who serve them gathered. While the venue’s capacity is only 2,250 – there were at least double that gathered along Market St. each night - with many remaining outside during the concert to catch what vibes and sounds they could.

Bob Weir & Wolf Bros @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

Friday’s first set featured mostly songs that have earned a place in regular rotations of the various configurations of Weir’s post-Grateful Dead incarnations - opening with “The Music Never Stopped” and highlighted by a rousing "Bertha" and reflective "Loser" before wrapping up with the ever so timely, politically charged “Throwing Stones” – with Weir putting particular emphasis into the “You can buy the whole goddamn government today” line.

Bob Weir @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Bob Weir @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

Set two began with Weir alone in the spotlight with an acoustic guitar for a cover of Little Feat’s "Easy to Slip" before the band rejoined for a surprising inclusion of “The Winners” featuring an appearance by Alligator – one of the most famous of Jerry Garcia’s Fender guitars. Weir remarked to the crowd about how the guitar had been featured in the recording of several songs being played this night before transitioning back to crowd favorites such as “Althea,” “Scarlet Begonias” and “Uncle John’s Band” with Weir throwing in “Supplication” from Kingfish, Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and ending the set with The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’.” Set two also featured an appearance of a rollicking "U.S. Blues" featuring Weir, the Wolf Bros and the extended Wolfpack served as an encore and that topped a stellar opening night with Weir leaving the crowd with the parting thoughts of “Thanks. MaƱana.”

Bob Weir & the Wolf Bros @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Bob Weir & the Wolf Bros @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

Unlike night one, Saturday’s show saw the towering curtains of The Warfield drawn closed prior to the band coming on stage. When the curtains opened, Weir and his complete ensemble was spectacularly back lit by white lights projecting up from the stage to the ceiling and immediately launched into an acoustic “Friend of the Devil.” The opening set balanced familiar staples “Brown Eyed Women”, “Weather Report Suite” and “Let It Grow” with a beautiful, stirring cover of Garcia’s hometown ballad “Mission In The Rain” and Weir’s beloved "Ashes & Glass" > "Don’t Let Go" > "Ashes & Glass."

Saturday’s second set began with a quiet and calm cover of “Me & Bobby McGee” before transitioning to a singalong of “I Need A Miracle” and “Truckin.” The set was highlighted by a hard-charging cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” and a poignant “Standing On The Moon” with Weir’s emphasis on local favorite line “Somewhere in San Francisco on a back porch in July” eliciting a tremendous ovation. The traditional Saturday inclusion of “One More Saturday Night” delivered its adrenaline kick with a high speed crescendo that brought the energy of the crowd to its highest peak of the weekend. Traditional encore “Ripple” provided a blissful ending to send the crowd home in a blissful manner to rest up for the final night.

Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Jay Lane & Bob Weir @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Jay Lane & Bob Weir @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

It was a Bobby lovefest all weekend and though the man himself did his best to downplay the significance of completing his 75th trip around the sun, expectations were high for Sunday’s show on Weir’s actual birthday. Rumors abounded throughout the weekend of possible surprise guests that would show up (Mayer posted on Instagram showing him getting on a plane earlier in the morning was Sunday’s tingler). In the end, Weir stuck true to his current creative calling with his extended Wolfpack including strings and horns – only adding longtime harmonica companion Matthew Kelly for the weekend and welcoming surprise Sunday guest Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

Bob Weir & Wolf Bros @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

The curtains drew back to traditional Sunday-only “Samson & Delilah” with Weir snarling at his most ferocious. “Ramble on Rose” was followed by the Wolf Bros debut of “Big Boss Man” and led to Ramblin’ Jack joining for a cover of “Mule Skinner Blues.” A tender, powerful “Looks Like Rain” elevated the night with Weir showing his most vulnerable and emotional vocals of the weekend, supported by stunning lighting. “Victim or the Crime” provided another Wolf Bros debut and led into “The Other One” and a horns and strings-energized “Cassidy” to finish out a remarkable first set. A set list that might be considered marginal on paper was deftly delivered by a band who is completely dialed into taking the songs well beyond their traditional boundaries with new twists and turns.

Happy 75th Birthday Bobby Weir! (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Happy 75th Birthday Bobby Weir! (Photo: Sean Reiter)

As the curtains drew back to start set two, Weir was surprised to look out at an audience all holding the roses they had received at intermission and his wife Natascha and daughter Monet bringing out a 75th birthday cake. Weir, who had seemed to downplay the event all weekend took a brief moment to blow out his candles and crack a small smile as the audience and band serenaded him with “Happy Birthday.” He moved briskly past the moment to launch into the classic couplet of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider” before visiting “Peggy-O,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Eternity” and a reprise of “The Other One.” The set ended very strongly with a stirring and poignant “Days Between” that underscored the magnitude of the event before heading into traditional set closer “Not Fadeaway.” With the crowd clapping and chanting, Weir came back on stage and asked the audience to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to his Dead & Company bandmate John Mayer, who shares the same birthday. There was a bit of a brief excited gasp of “Is he here?” among the audience before the realization that it was a greeting from afar. The encore began with a rare encore version of “Shakedown Street” played at a blistering pace compared to that of the last few years.

Bob Weir's 75th Birthday Celebration Deadheads @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)
Bob Weir's 75th Birthday Celebration Deadheads @ the Warfield (Photo: Sean Reiter)

For the weekend, The Warfield served as a fitting home for Weir’s milestone birthday as it celebrates its 100th birthday in 2022. The clear sound and spectacular lighting made it feel like a modern state-of-the-art arena, while its historic interior remains wonderfully preserved. Each night began with the lower level general admission area packed but peaceful, full seating in the balconies and twirlers filling the aisles up top and on the sides. With Deadheads, there is always the will to get closer to the band and over the years they’ve mastered finding the way to make their migration to the front of the stage. The Warfield staff did a nice job of preventing too much overcrowding down front while not being too heavy-handed.

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Bob Weir and Wolf Bros. Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA, Fall Tour 2022
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros. Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA, Fall Tour 2022
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros. Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA, Fall Tour 2022

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