NSO Pops: Bobby Weir and Wolf Brothers | Kennedy Center Concert Hall | 10/5/2022

Article Contributed by Jamie Huenefeld | Published on Monday, October 10, 2022

The elegant John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts was overtaken by the passionate fans of Bobby Weir & Wolf Brothers, as well as the Grateful Dead, last week when they joined forces with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. for the first of four historic shows together. The Wolf Pack string and brass quintet, which is an expanded version of the band, provided their support. Fans young and old were filled with delight hearing their favorite Dead tunes backed by this impressive orchestra. The Kennedy Center was equally enamored to host this devoted audience at their unique Kennedy Center Concert Hall, which is the home of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Patrons enjoyed the marvelous sunset on the River Terrace | Kennedy Center

This four night run was certainly different than normal gigs for the band, as Weir and his band mates abandoned their standard casual concert attire for dapper black tuxedos, matching the iconic venue's ambiance. The Wolf Brothers consist of guitarist Weir, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, bassist Don Was and drummer Jay Lane. The Wolf Pack's members include cellist Alex Kelly, trumpeter Brian Switzer, trombonist Adam Theis, violinist Mads Tolling and woodwindist Sheldon Brown. The shows were originally scheduled to take place in February 2022, but were rescheduled in an abundance of caution because of concerns about covid-19.

A dancing bear in the Hall of Nations | Kennedy Center

The evening's festivities began in and around the gorgeous Kennedy Center campus. Fans were seen mulling about the Hall of Nations and Hall of States, as well as the breathtaking River Terrace, which overlooks the Potomac River and Theodore Roosevelt Island. They were intermixed with patrons headed to see the play Hamilton, which was held in the adjacent Kennedy Center Opera House.

Conductor Steven Reineke and the National Symphony Orchestra | Washington D.C.

The National Symphony Orchestra took the stage on time at 8pm, albeit without the Grateful Dead icons that the audience was ready to see. Led by conductor Steven Reineke, the orchestra began with an overture that included delightful instrumental sections of "Brokedown Palace", "Cassidy", "Terrapin Station", and "The Other One." Upon the conclusion of this tasty warm up, Weir, the Wolf Brothers and the Wolf Pack emerged from the green room. They received a boisterous applause not only from the crowd, but also the orchestra. Reinecke mentioned that this is first time they have collaborated with celebrated rock and roll artists, and expressed their excitement for the occasion.

The National Symphony Orchestra applauded the arrival of Bobby Weir & Wolf Brothers | Washington D.C.

The short but sweet first set continued with "Row Jimmy," giving the fans their first taste of orchestral arrangements intermixed within the songs. The set wrapped up with the gem of "China Cat Sunflower" > "I Know You Rider," and included moments of improvisation by Weir & Wolf Brothers. Despite the formal setting, this band felt at home to play their music with the exploratory mindset that Weir has fostered for over fifty years.

Guitarist Bobby Weir | Bobby Weir & Wolf Brothers

The musicians left for intermission, and graciously returned for a long set of tunes that began with "Uncle John's Band." The most commercially successful tune by the Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey," was up next, and meshed well with the orchestral arrangements. The dance inducing "Shakedown Street" followed, as the fans proceeded to twirl in the aisles, much to the chagrin of the ushers who attempted to keep them clear. The energy dipped while emotions soared during the masterful segue into the mellow Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballad, "Days Between," which was performed by only Weir and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Bobby Weir thanks composer Giancarlo Aquilanti | Kennedy Center

The Wolf Brothers and Wolf Pack returned upon conclusion of the heart felt "Days Between." Before the next tune, Weir took a moment to introduce and thank Giancarlo Aquilanti, the Stanford University composer who orchestrated the Grateful Dead tunes and helped make this momentous show possible. He also alluded to the fact that a copious amount of time remained during tonight's performance. The large group of musicians then played the melodic "Cassidy." Afterwards, Weir took a moment to chat with Reinecke, announced "We have a plan," and dove head first into a profound "Dark Star."

Bobby Weir & Wolf Brothers with the National Symphony Orchestra | Washington D.C.

The bubbly "Sugar Magnolia" emerged next, and included the beloved "Sunshine Daydream" ending. The energy fell with emotions on high, once again, for the National Symphony Orchestra's final tune, "Brokedown Palace." The orchestra left, but Weir and his talented group of musicians were not quite ready to end the show. They delivered a rocking "Bird Song" > "Loose Lucy," to conclude the evening, or so they thought. The fans willed an encore by clapping the beat of "Not Fade Away," which normally occurs when the band closes out with "Crickets." Weir and the Wolf Brothers returned to the stage one final time for a fiery "Loose Lucy" reprise, sending the fans home with huge smiles on their faces.

The stunning Kennedy Center Concert Hall | Kennedy Center

Weir & Wolf Brothers continued their truly special, sold out, four night stand through the weekend at the architecturally stunning Kennedy Center. Those in attendance were very fortunate to be part of history in the making. The shows may have ended, but there is still plenty of programming at the Kennedy Center for people of all ages. Head on over to their event calendar for details on upcoming performances. Weir & the Wolf Brothers are also on tour this fall, with shows primarily on the West coast. More information can be found on their tour page.

Check out more photos from the show!

Set One
Overture1,  Row Jimmy, China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider

Set Two
Uncle John's Band, Touch of Grey, Shakedown Street > Days Between2, Cassidy, Dark Star, Sugar Magnolia, Brokedown Palace, Bird Song3 > Loose Lucy3

Loose Lucy3

1. National Symphony Orchestra only
2. Bobby Weir and the National Symphony Orchestra only
3. Bobby Weir and Wolf Brothers only

Bobby Weir & Wolf Brothers | Kennedy Center

The iconic Kennedy Center | Washington D.C.

Grateful Dead fans packed the Kennedy Center campus | Washington D.C.