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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2012/06/19
by Ted Rockwell

Weir, Robinson, Greene, Chautauqua Auditorium, Boulder, CO – 6/4

Three men from three different generations are playing acoustic guitars in an old barn. A seated audience listens intently as these balladeers trade lead vocals and instrumental flourishes. All the while an early summer breeze occasionally stirs some feathers from the rafters, sending them floating downward to glow briefly in the lights before alighting on the edge of the stage. As the last notes of their song subside the crowd claps and hollers in appreciation and the smiling musicians turn to one another tuning their guitars, discussing their next song.

While this may describe countless hoedowns and rambles that have occurred throughout the history of American acoustic music, this scene took place just this week in Boulder, CO on June 4, 2012 at Chautauqua Auditorium.

Bob Weir, Chris Robinson and Jackie Greene have been touring the country as an acoustic trio this spring, performing in various theaters and outdoor stages. At Chautauqua they found themselves playing in a very large, 120 year-old wooden barn. It was constructed in 1898 during the hey-day of the Chauatauqua movement in America and its original purpose was for public lectures and unamplified music. One tradition at Chautauqua is for people without tickets to put down a blanket on the lawn just outside the barn to listen. Many families with children continued that tradition on this evening; listening intently to the trio’s music spill through the wooden slats of the barn and out into the twilight foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Although this was the final date of their tour, this penultimate performance properly captured the musical continuum that these performers are a part of.

From the opening notes of their first song, “New Speedway Boogie,” there was a distinct feeling that we were witnessing something that was at once rare and timeless; honest acoustic music and the high lonesome sound of voices harmonizing, performed to a rapt audience. The performers tipped their hat to this venue and the setting with their second song, “I Ain’t Broke, But I’m Badly Bent,” a bluegrass standard that most Deadheads know from Old and in the Way recordings.

And with those two songs the band also signaled this was going to be a night heavy on Garcia’s folk-influenced tunes. Beyond some of the Garcia standards that one would expect (“Bird Song,” “Loser,” “Sugaree,” “Peggy-O”) Bob Weir took a huge risk and performed “The Days Between” solo. That risk paid off as his tender and heartfelt rendition of the song brought a rousing ovation from the audience. And lyrics about the fragility of life seemed to hang in the air of the barn as the show continued.

The band clearly has a great affection for one another and took turns joking with one another and commenting on the wonderful setting they were playing in. Before Greene started his two song solo set he commented that each member of the band was going to perform solo in order of their age and Weir hobbled off the stage as if walking under the assistance of a cane. Moments later, after Jackie’s first solo song, Weir returned to the stage delivering an oxygen tank on wheels to the 32 year old, ‘just in case.’

While Chris Robinson and Bob Weir are clearly accomplished performers, each with legions of their own fans, Jackie Greene was the performer whose talent shown brightest on this night. His vocal talents rival many of the modern professional bluegrass performers with its range and emotive qualities and his guitar playing simply carried their performance to new highs. His guitar flourishes during “Loser” seemed to echo the ‘shine’ of the queen of diamonds and his slide guitar work on “West LA Fadeaway” was a skilled balance of precise boisterousness. However, what could be described as the highlight of the evening was when Greene wielded his banjo during a very tender reading of “Bird Song.” He played the lead melody with so much confident sweetness the crowd swooned when the descending line was sounded before each new verse. I know it sounds cliche to say it but ‘Garcia would have been proud!’

While the performance was not technically perfect (there were some missed cues and lyrics) the fact that the audience sat for most of the show made for a unique situation for Weir, Robinson and Greene. They were the entire focus of their audience and ovations seemed more heartfelt and honest. As opposed to seeing this group in a theater where a party atmosphere encourages dancing and carousing, this setting really put the performers front and center with no other distractions. While this tour of shows from this particular trio was already seen by many as a special event, this particular performance stood out purely because of the venue. Unique, special, rareā€¦ these words are used so commonly that the value of their meaning is debased. However, in this case those who were in attendance know that those words are most appropriate for what they saw.

And yet, there is something so timeless about seeing music played on acoustic instruments in an old barn, that one can not help but recognize that they are participating in a age-old ritual that will continue as long as humans yearn to learn and love and grow.

Comments

There are 13 comments associated with this post

scott September 20, 2012, 23:18:00

i enjoyed the review of this one of a kind trio,which is unique collaboration born of the genre of music bob weir helped to create.i find it disturbing(to say the least) that the type of person who generated some of the comments on this review,as well as many others on this site are associated with this scene.the arbitrary act of breaking down people who do there best to create something real is the hallmark of small minded,bitter,narcissistic,anti-original cowards that submit nothing and hide in the anonymity of some random forum like this. i am reminded of bob dylan’s lyrics from “jokerman” ,;“false hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin.” the toxic attack on other folks who put themselves out there completely without a net, is a mindset,and more importantly a “heartset” that has no place in the world of this music.on the upside,i’m sure by now the naysayers with their typical a.d.d. have moved on to tearing down someone else in a continuing effort to feel better about their sad life. -scott hudson .

mb June 23, 2012, 22:07:11

Hey ws, do you understand that there would be no jamband scene were it not for the Grateful Dead? wtf! Did you ever actually see the band? It would appear that you have little or no frame of reference to be making such grand pronouncements. Maybe broaden your perspective a little. Bobby may be a flake but he’s demonstrated enough genius through the years that I’ll always cut him a fair amount of slack. What I always loved about the Dead was that even when they were off they were still interesting. I guess I feel fortunate to be a moron!

DannyF June 22, 2012, 15:27:21

I caught these guys in K.C. a few weeks ago. Terrible execution, song selection, and technical approach. Everything Weir was apart of stunk up the joint. They played from sheet music.
Go ahead and miss this one when it comes to your town.
However; Chris Robinson Brotherhood is a great new studio offering and has enormous potential live.

Todd June 22, 2012, 18:16:31

What is wrong with sheet music? How do you think musicians learn new material? They don’t just play it by ear…. Think if you were a story teller who couldn’t read from a book but just told stories as you remembered them. It wouldn’t work. Guess what, most musicians use sheet music.

Weirsucks June 22, 2012, 20:11:12

Bob Weir has to be one of the most overrated musicians out there. A below average singer and guitarist who still manages to make a buck off of the lemmings that followed the Grateful Dead around for years. I mean Dead fans are so moronic they will pay to see cover bands recreate shows that weren’t that great to begin with!

Will June 22, 2012, 20:33:51

Great review.

Fella June 23, 2012, 23:55:39

A couple things: 1. I enjoyed the review and the great descriptive words to set the scene for the reader. 2. I was also at the KC show and I thought it sounded great. Yeah, there were a few flubs, but I enjoy the human-element. 3. Todd, when Danny was talking about “Sheet Music” he is referring to the fact that the guys all had music stands on stage. This is mainly just an issue for fellow musicians. I’m fine with music stands, hell, I use them a lot when I play, but if you are going to tour and charge $30 a ticket I think you should learn the material. Especially since the tunes they are playing are relatively simple. my 2 cents

todd June 25, 2012, 15:02:33

Bobby uses the music stand at all of his shows. He can hardly remember the words to Truckin’ let alone to songs that he only plays 2 or 3 times a year. If they didnt have music in front of them, the song selection would be much more limited. Jerry used a tele-prompter and I was glad to hear him sing Visions of Johanna with it. I dont think he would have busted that one out without the being able to reference the lyrics.

JD June 25, 2012, 19:14:30

Sheet music? A musican using sheet music, how can that be. Bobby has had few interesting things in his body and along with getting older his memory isn’t what it use to be. SO WHAT

John J. Wood June 26, 2012, 15:46:08

A solid review. However, there is one correction. Jackie Greene was playing a 6-string guitjo, and not a banjo. I play the latter every day, and the tuning on a banjo is different from the guitjo.

Luke June 30, 2012, 07:04:25

Great review, thanks. Sounds like it was a fine evening in a wonderfully unique setting. It’d be more polished if they did it more often but of course it’s a ‘side’ thing for all of them. Cool the three generations thing. All three are unique talents undoubtedly.

Ramesh July 11, 2012, 18:13:19

I do hope you’re joking, eslapiecly looking at the way you typed your comment. Girls with larger boobs are more susceptible to breast cancer and back problems. It’s not as fun as it sounds being ogled while you walk down the street everywhere you go, and when you try to hold a conversation with a guy, he’s only staring at your chest. And relating to the comic above, even if she buys a strap-less bra that fits, most likely it’ll be uncomfortable and hard to move in because big breasts simply need the support of straps. Imagine not being able to jump up and down or enjoy gym class because it hurts if you move too much. So don’t go, AW Y R U MAD ID FLASH EVERY GUY I SAW IF I HAD BIG BOOBS Because it really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Your comment was extremely insensitive, turdstar.

Shane September 17, 2012, 16:45:26

I Was blessed enough to see the Grateful Dead since I was 8 years old, im from the east coast, my parents were old school deadheads. I moved and I lived in colorado for 14 years( back east now) and unfortunately was not at this show. I heard it in its entirety on sirius and it was “amazingly”, AMAZINGLY Soulful and Mindblowing. comments like the ones I read above are dishearting and unwarrented. U monday morning quarterbacks are always so opinionated and pervert the essence of the Brilliance and Genius that u were blessed enough to partake in..If you dont like it, dont go.. Ya’ll goin to these shows, with your arms crossed, covered in cynacism, tryin to find a reason bitch, and even during the show, projecting negativity as why they’re not living up to your expectations. Truth is, nothing ever does, cuz ur the same the people who bitch about the Audi your parents gave you, cuz its lasts years model and has 20,000 miles on it..( yeah, you ) So what if they have Sheet music, or teleprompters, theyre doin it for us you misrable @%#^%‘s…When u go to the grocerey store, and buy the same shit u been buyin for years, do you not bring a list?? Or do you just walk around the store, taking mental notes of the ones who do so you can go home and blog about it later?? Do yourself, and those who really want to be there but cant get tickets a favor,... and dont go,..Just stay home.. And if your gonna go, Close your eyes, and your damn mouth, and u might see more than what ur feeble and presumtious mind would normally allow u too.People who “get it “ are out there and its a beautifull thing. Unfortunately your not one of them…Ive seen over a 100 shows, ( with Jerry) and quite a few without. Some were better than others, but even the worst show, trumps anything else that I could be doing anywhere, anytime….And as for U,... well…. If you cant find beauty, happiness, and the shear Genius and gift that these events offer,...Then Stay Home…Ur not ready..This kinda thing is caught not taught, and for those who have been there no words are necessary, and for those who havent, no words will do…- Gratefully, -Shane

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