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Credit: minds-eye


Bob Weir's isolated guitar for The Grateful Dead prove his genius


The Grateful Dead were a band who lived on the road. They must have more miles under their belt than most middle-aged truckers—but there was one spot they called home more often than any other, The Greek Theatre in Berkley, California. In this rarely heard clip, we can take a trip back to Grateful Dead’s final performance at the legendary venue in 1989 all through the unique isolated guitar of Bob Weir. The band’s smiling assassin, Weir’s guitar is that of legend.

One of the understated influencers of the time, Bob Weir‘s noodling guitar has often been overlooked as one of the most pioneering songwriters and extroverted guitar players the world has ever seen. So what better way to celebrate the man than by revisiting him in his most favourite place—on the stage. It was where the Grateful Dead really came alive.

The Grateful Dead first took to the stage at the notorious venue in 1967 and would frequent there more often than not, taking up residency for three nights at a time during each year of the eighties. The final show would see the band say goodbye to one of their many spiritual homes and has become the stuff of legend among the band’s avid fans, known as Deadheads.

It feels fitting, then, that one way to look back at this iconic gig would be through Bob Weir’s laconic and laid-back isolated guitar parts. Brought to YouTube by cleantones, the story of how it came to light goes: “Apparently Bobby was troubleshooting his guitar rig and had his guitar recorded separately for the three nights at the Greek by Don Pearson. This final performance was leaked in one way or another.” We’re very glad it did as it is one of the most insightful pieces we’ve heard in a long time.

Weir has always seemed at home on stage, far from the sometimes cantankerous Jerry Garcia, Weir nearly always had a beaming smile when playing with the Dead and it’s a notion that shines in his guitar playing—bright, bouncing and utterly beguiling. With the ability to shred as well as anyone, Weir’s real talent lies in his ability to adapt and generally ‘feel the vibe’. It may be an old trope for Grateful Dead to be described as ‘vibey’ in any way, but if the vegan leather sandal fits.

When that kind of guitar playing is isolated it moves on from the perfect piece of an elaborate kaleidoscopic puzzle to an expression of the player. With the setlist below you can follow along with Weir’s guitar parts but we think it’s better to just sit back and let Weir’s tone take you on your own trip. Delicately moving from track to track, Weir’s parts are far from the overwhelming wall of sound that can sometimes be scaled at Dead gigs, instead, it’s a relaxing float down a long and lazy river.

Listen to Bob Weir’s isolated guitar on The Grateful Dead’s final performance at the legendary Greek Theatre in 1989, below.

Set 1:
‘Let The Good Times Roll’
‘Jack Straw’
‘We Can Run’
‘Tennessee Jed’
‘It’s All Over Now’
‘Stuck Inside Of Mobile’
‘Box Of Rain’

Set 2:
‘China Cat Sunflower’
‘I Know You Rider’
‘Playin’ In The Band’
‘Uncle John’s Band’
‘Playin’ Reprise’
‘The Other One’
‘Wharf Rat’
‘Not Fade Away’

‘Foolish Heart’