Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bob Weir back from the Dead

From the Toronto Sun:

Bob Weir back from the Dead
By BILL HARRIS - Toronto Sun

A former member of the
Grateful Dead is playing with RatDog on Halloween at The Docks. Honestly, folks, we're not making this up.

Could it be any more ghoulishly ominous?

But don't expect ghosts of past concerts -- or, at least, ghosts of recent concerts -- to be haunting the place when guitarist Bob Weir and RatDog take the stage on Monday.

When asked what fans who purchase tickets can expect to hear, Weir on the phone recently answered in a manner that best can be described as bluntly vague.

"Well, it would be impossible to predict what tunes they're going to hear," said Weir, 58. "But what they can expect not to hear is anything we played the last couple of times we were in town, or anything we play in the previous few gigs on this particular tour.

"Aside from that, we're working on new material. Maybe we'll pull out a few new chestnuts, or old chestnuts."

The unpredictability of repertoire is something Weir comes by honestly, following his multiple decades with the Grateful Dead, perhaps the most famous touring band in the history of rock 'n' roll. The classic Dead lineup took a fatal blow when
Jerry Garcia died in 1995, but playing live remains in Weir's blood.

"Any band that mixes it up is going to have a longer career because they're not going to go nuts playing the same set every night," said Weir, whose current band records its concerts and has CDs available for purchase immediately afterward. "Practice makes perfect, and we got a lot of practice, man. Years and years of practice."

Countless musicians, both professional and amateur, joined the Dead on stage through the years. Some meshed with the band better than others, naturally.

"Well, maybe (saxophone legend) Branford Marsalis," Weir said when asked if anyone really surprised him. "I figured he would be good, but I didn't know he was going to fit with what we did as well as he did. It was a slam-dunk on a certain level, but on another level it was surprising how well he graced what we were doing."

Undoubtedly, if Garcia still were alive, the Grateful Dead still would be touring.

"I would expect so," Weir said. "But maybe not quite as hot and heavy as we used to do it."
As for RatDog, the group began as a low-key blues ensemble a decade ago but slowly has transformed itself into more of a jazz-hard rock combo worthy of its threatening name.

"I love to play, you know," Weir said. "There are new challenges, nightly, monthly, yearly.

"If we're boring, we're not doing our jobs. If we're boring, we're dying, absolutely. We have to keep ourselves amused or we're not going to last very long."

Please. At this stage of his career, the last thing Bob Weir has to worry about is a lack of longevity.


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