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After 7 Walkers left the stage, I figured I’d go have a beer (or two) and hang out in the media tent as I waited for what was being billed as Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby with saxophonistBranford Marsalis. To me, this was the one act that I highly anticipated but in a skeptical view. Wasn’t sure how an act like this presumably jazzy take on the Grateful Dead would do. No, I wasn’t questioning the music, nor the musicians, but all of the above with the match of the venue. This trio seemed like it would go over much better at theater-type venue. Also the question begged asking: How much playing time does this trio have together? Was it going to be an hour and a half of improvision?
When I was on the left coast to see Furthur this past New Years, I saw posters up all around the venue for a single show for Bruce Hornsby and Bob Weir at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. At the time, I thought that would be a tasty treat, probably a Bruce Hornsby show with Bobby accompanying him. Recall the days right after Brent Midland died, Bruce came and filled in on piano for the Grateful Dead, offering a very unlike-Brent kinda sound. Personally, I loved Bruce with the Dead; everyone has their opinion. Anyway, I kept tabs on the Fox Theater show to make sure I read reviews and heard a copy of the show. The reviews were mediocre but they were from people I don’t give too much credence to their opinions… so…; this only led to greater anticipation for me.
We were led to the pit and shortly after we got out there, Bobby came out, bowed to the audience and began tuning his guitars. Just Bob Weir's presence on a stage sets a tone of, well, let's just say ... a good vibe. A short time later, Branford Marsalis, too, came on stage to set up his instruments. The two chatted and laughed, and provided some impromptu pictures for those of us that love that kind of picture taking. =) Then Bruce came out and sat down at the piano.
They started their set off with (I think) Chuck Berry’s “Money Business.” They had me there. It was lovely. In my opinion, Branford Marsalias is the best in the sax business. I got to years ago see him several times play with the Grateful Dead. There’s just something about the versatility of a Grateful Dead song; it can be ‘jazzed’ up for one of the most eloquent sound you’d want to hear. I started snapping pictures and dancing … As eager as I was to see how this band was going to be, they proved this music fit so well for the day. It was simply beautiful! The rain had stopped as evening approached. Second song, they went into a stripped-down version of Dark Star. I was psyched because, first of all, I love a good Dark Star, but secondly, I knew I’d be in the pit for a good ten or fifteen minutes or so if Dark Star was being played.
The setlist was a mix of Hornsby originals and Grateful Dead covers. They played a newer Hornsby song, Might As Well Be Me, this song was co-wrote by Bruce Hornsby and Robert Hunter. Of course, I loved it! They also did The Other One ~ one of my favorite Bobby tunes EVER! After we were ushered out of the pit, I hurried into the crowd to enjoy the rest of the show from there. You get a much fuller sound from the crowd than standing in front of a speaker in the pit. The vocals were glorious, and in some cases even harmonious; Bobby only occationally forgot the words. The fullness of the sounds between Bobby’s guitar, Bruce’s piano and Branford’s sax formed a congruous trinity of sound. The rest of Bruce Hornsby’s band, the Noisemakers, came out to play. Bob’s RatDog buddy, Jay Lane, who’d be later taking the stage with his band, Primus, also sat in on a tune or two. That was a pleasure, though sort of expected if you ask me. (btw: I <3 Jay Lane). Another of the highlights of not only this band, but in retrospect in my less-than-humble-opinion of the entire Vibes, was their version of Standing on the Moon. This song appears on one of Bruce’s recent records. With the full sound of Bruce and his Noisemakers, Bobby harmonizing, and the beautiful sax of Branford Marsalias, if Jer was there this evening, it was for this song. (Next up: Phil Lesh & Family (I mean Friends)
1. Monkey Business
2. Dark Star
3. Chicago Blues Jam
4. King of the Hill
5. Big Boss Man
6. Might as Well Be Me
7. **Me and My Uncle > **Mexicali Blues
9. Standing on the Moon >
10. The Other One
11. Playing in the Band