Anticipation was high!
Bob Weir and Mickey Hart were going to sit in with 7 Walkers. What people perceived as a “split” between friends, was to be healed through music!
Rumors have been flying since September 2009 as to why Phil Lesh and Bob Weir started a new band (Furthur) so soon after The Dead reunion tour in the Spring of that year, and specifically without Bill and Mickey; some rumors sited money issues between the core four, others creative differences, or control issues of one party or another. A few dissing or dismissing comments had been made in various interviews – and in the gossipy rumor filled minds of Deadheads it was seen as a rift that might never mend. Many deadheads approach it with a child like simplicity: this is our family, our “folks” are separated, seeing other people, and happy in their new relationships… But we always in our hearts hope they still really love each other and will get back together someday… and fear it might be a permanent divorce.
Regardless of who said what when, Bobby playing with Billy is nice. Deadheads rejoiced all over the land at the announcement! Several people at the show echoed the sentiment “I’m just glad they’re playing together!” and “Where is Phil?”
The show did not sell out, much to everyone’s surprise, though the late announcement of the guests might have been part of that. Mind you, there were a lot of people there, just not as packed as expected. The show opened with 7 Walkers traditional opening, a “Space” jam. It was otherworldy, enhanced by Mickey Hart at a percusion kit on the “Jerry” side (audience right), between Matt Hubbard (keyboards, trombones, harmonicas, vocals) and Reed Mathis (bass; Reed alternates bass duties with George Porter Jr., who was not on hand this eve). Next to Mickey was his longtime friend and Mickey Hart Band member Sikiru Apedoju on talking drum. Of course on the “Phil” side (audience left) was Papa Mali on guitar, and Bill Kreutzmann was back center, holding down the beat. Mickey smiled a lot, and looked overjoyed to be there sharing rhythms with brother devil Bill. His pleasure was obvious.
Quite an exploratory space, Mickey and Sikiru helped fuel it’s fire. Into the Papa Mali tune “Little Sadie (Early in the Morning)”. 7 Walkers+ was off and jamming hard with the Robert Hunter penned “King Cotton Blues”. A rocking “Mr. Charlie” came to an end, we could see Bob Weir making his entrance, and as Papa Mali introduced him and the crowd cheered. With Weir plugged in they broke into a “New Speedway Boogie”, that was definitely the flavor of Walkers not Furthur – with Bobby and Papa trading and sharing vocal duties.
Bob looked good, healthy and sharp, and he stepped right in – I don’t know how much rehearsal went into the gig, but they were pretty tight – aside from a couple of moments, he was right in tune with the 7 Walkers vibe. My only unfulfilled desire was they didn’t really stretch the 7 Walkers catalogue, they did songs the Walkers do. It would have been nice to do a Bobby song they don’t do, like “St. Of Circumstance,” or “Sugar Magnolia” – or even go for a RatDog tune that even Furthur doesn’t do – I can imagine a great take on “October Queen”, “Bury Me Standing”, and would love to hear them on “the Winners”. Still, the set killed – “Birdsong” soared, “Fever” with Bob was real hot!
And then an extra surprise, Maria Muldaur became this evenings 8 Walker – joining in on a raucous “Wang Dang Doodle” that had the floor of the Great American Music Hall bouncin’ like a punk rock concert.
Next, more dancing and bouncing with a “Big Railroad Blues” – more recent addition to the 7 Walkers repertoire, and the song really took off like a steam locomotive with Weir’s vocals and guitars. Then a super sweet “Sugaree”. At this point, “Sugaree” is (in my opinion) the most overplayed Grateful Dead cover (“Friend fo The Devil” wins that one), but the reason is because it is a smoker, that if a band knows how to open it up, it just sizzles most every time. Bobby took over the vocals, of course.
The set closed with a rousing “Deal” and the crowd danced it up. With smiles and hugs all around, the Walking Dead (7 walkers with Hart and Weir) was a wonderful celebration. Bobby simply called out “7 Walkers” as he left the stage – and you could tell he was glad to have sat in with them. Bob sounded good both vocally and on guitar, and he and Papa Mali seemed to dig laying with each other.
The second set was a high energy 7 Walkers set, and from the funky “start of “Mr. Okra” had us all sweaty and dancing. No More Mickey or Bob, but Sikiru came back and played throughout. An incredible jam between Matt and Reed, then Matt and Papa lead us into the song “7 Walkers”.
More 7 Walkers tonight, Halloween – tickets still available!
Bill Kreutzmann, Papa Mali, Matt Hubbard, Reed Mathis,
and special guests
Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Sikiru Apedoju plus Maria Muldaur
Great American Music Hall
Space > (Mickey and Sikiru – the whole first set)
Little Sadie (Early In The Mornin’)
King Cotton Blues
New Speedway Boogie (Bob here through end of set)
Bird Song >
Wang Dang Doodle (Maria Muldaur on vocals and tambourine)
Big Railroad Blues
2nd set (Sikiru whole set, no Bob or Mickey)
(For The Love Of) Mr. Okra >
Bottle Up And Go >
Death Don’t Have No Mercy >
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues >
Encore: Turn On Your Lovelight