Bob Weir & RatDog, The Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL- 3/7
Photo by Adam Miszewski
Selling out the legendary Chicago Theatre auditorium during an extended winter that elicited Chi-town nicknames like “Chiberia” is no easy feat. But if there’s anyone that can entice 3,600+ Grateful Dead enthusiasts to come out of hibernation, it’s Bobby Weir. The Chicago stop – Bob’s first are appearance in more than a year – came in the middle of a series of dates with a revamped version of RatDog that will culminate in a slew of festival appearances this summer.
As crowd members greeted old friends and those they’d just met, the lights dimmed over the rustic stage that sits at the center of the majestic auditorium. Under the grandeur of the large murals that line the ceiling and sit above the stage, Bob and the band marched out to take their positions in the lavish scene. After fiddling with his instrument for what seems like forever to anxious fans, they commenced with a long, cool jam before launching into “The Music Never Stopped.”
Weir was in good company on stage with longtime bandmates Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane and Rob Wasserman, and relatively recent additions to the group Steve Kimock and Robin Sylvester. Breaking up the grooving Dead classic, the band then delivered a funky “Shakey Ground” – the first of several covers intertwined throughout the setlist. The second was “Queen Jane Approximately,” a Dylan tune that Bobby has been playing for several decades.
“This one’s dedicated to Willie Dixon,” Bob said before honoring the legendary blues artist and producer with “Little Red Rooster.” The crowd was fully captivated as the band moved through several Grateful Dead and Bobby originals, including a punching and passionate “Greatest Story Ever Told” and a mellow yet surprisingly satisfying “Supplication.” After the first few classic chords of “Johnny B. Goode” rang through the hazy auditorium, the crowd roared as Bob and the band put the cherry on top of the first set.
Alone on the crowded stage in a plain black t-shirt and cropped jeans, Bob began the second set with an acoustic “El Paso” that the crowd helped him out with. Much to the delight of many crowd members this was followed by a version of the Hunter-Garcia song “Catfish John” and a return to Dylan for “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” “Scarlet Begonias,” which seemed to follow the original Grateful Dead arrangement pretty closely, even as Bob sang lead rather than Jerry Garcia, picked up the pace of the show. A moved from “Lady with a Fan” into “Terrapin” into “The Other One” was a heavy sequence, laced with extended jams and pumped up bass by Sylvester.
The second set culminated in cool “Not Fade Away.” The band cut its second break short, no doubt to save time for the extended encore. Bob and the band took their time, exploring a long jam before returning to Terrapin for “At a Siding” and “Terrapin Flyer” a true treat for the dedicated fans that stayed in place until the band’s last note.