By Caleb Calhoun
Christmas Jam 2016 was on point right from the start, but the second half was most memorable. Holly Bowling returned to the stage after Michael McDonald’s set but, her interlude was noticeably shorter than the intermission. As it turned out, there was a pretty good reason for that.
I was in the pit maybe 20 yards from the stage when Bob Weir walked on. You could feel the energy ripple through the crowd. He opened alone, just an acoustic guitar, with “Easy to Slip.” The chattering and jockeying for position had pretty much died down by the time he called Alison Krauss to the stage.
The Grateful Dead were the folk singers for an entire generation, and “Peggy-O” is one of the most beautiful of the true folk tunes they ever covered. Weir and Krauss’ chemistry was incredible and their harmony spectacular, but it was her haunting fiddle melody that made this old song brand new again.
After a pair of his campfire songs, Weir waded into a guitar-heavy “He’s Gone,” on which he was joined by both Warren Haynes and Branford Marsalis. After teasing a few other tunes, notably “That’s it for the Other One,” they delighted the crowd by heading into “Eyes of the World.”
By this point in the evening I had stashed my glasses and up until now I had assumed it was John Medeski on the keys. Perhaps two minutes into “EOTW” though and, glasses or not, I could tell that this wasn’t the case. Medeski is jazzy, progressive, and this was something else altogether. The notes were flowing, bubbling like a brook, and they provided some sort of classical melodic current I had never quite heard come through a Dead Set before.
I looked at my friend and mouthed the words “Holly Bowling.” After nearly 20 minutes of ecstasy, they revved things back up and into a powerful, honky-tonk version of “Truckin’” before finishing off with “Ripple.”
After another intermission, it was finally time for The Last Waltz Band. They came out swinging with muscular version of “Cripple Creek” and never let up. “The Shape I’m In” had the entire crowd rolling, and the mid-set trio of “Georgia on My Mind,” “The Weight” (with Weir and Krauss), and “Ophelia” were some of the greatest musical moments I can call to memory.
Krauss rejoined them a few songs later for a religious version of “Helpless,” at the end of which Haynes called on the crowd to sing along. After a pair of tunes joined by former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin, a version of “King Harvest” they ramped it back up.
The horns came in strong and hands across the stadium were raised in the air as The Last Waltz Band broke off a version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” whose equal has not been seen since the original Last Waltz 40 years ago.
It was well past 1 .m., but Haynes assured us that after a brief set-break, Gov’t Mule would be on stage with even more music. We were all tired and we were all just barely hanging on, but most of the crowd dug a little deeper and settled in for one last set of music. Those of us who did were rewarded mightily.
Mule’s energy was not diminished one bit. They played with a rotating cast of drummers and nailed the set list. After an intense version of “Dreams,” they finished out the show with a fun, friendly version of “Mountain Jam” that made everyone forget just how tired they actually were.
It was nearly 3 a.m. when the last notes were played, but the delirious crowd was still begging for more. This is how you do an event right. This is how you send the fans home happy. I, for one, am already counting down the days to Christmas Jam 2017.
Correction: The reference to the song “Peggy-O” was corrected to state that the Grateful Dead’s version is a cover. The Grateful Dead did not write that song.
Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the author and publisher of Rosman City Blues and currently resides outside of Asheville with his dog and best friend, Dr. Gonzo.
You can reach him at Caleb.firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Facebook.com/GonzoNC.
Bob Weir and Friends
01 Easy to Slip
02 Peggy-O *
03 Ghost Towns **
04 Only a River **
05 Heâ€™s Gone ***
06 Eyes of the World ***
07 Truckinâ€™ ***
08 Ripple ***
* w/Alison Krauss(fiddle/vocals)
** w/Duane Trucks(drums) & Warren Haynes(acoustic guitar)
*** w/Don Was(bass), Branford Marsalis(saxophone), Duane Trucks(drums), Warren Haynes( guitar/backing vocals), Steve Kimock(guitar), Holly Bowling(keys)
Recorded with Neumann KM184â€™s > Sonosax SX-M2 > Roland R-05 @ 48 kHZ/24 bit
Right corner FOH, 7 ft. high
Recorded by D. Fries
The Last Waltz Band: Warren Haynes(guitar/vocals), Michael McDonald(keys/vocals), Don Was(bass), Jamey Johnson(vocals/pedal steel), John Medeski(Keyboards), Terence Higgins(Drums)
02. Up on Cripple Creek $
03. The Shape I’m In $
04. Stage Fright
05. Georgia on My Mind $
06. The Weight *
07. Ophelia $
08. It Makes No Difference $
09. Helpless **
10. Mannish Boy ^
11. Further on Up the Road ^
12. King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
13. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
$ w/horn section
* w/ Bob Weir(guitar/vocals) & Alison Krauss(vocals)
** w/ Alison Krauss(fiddle/vocals)
^ w/ Smoky Greenwell(harmonica) & Bob Margolin(guitar/vocals)
source: Neumann ak40 > lc3 > km100 (din) > Naiant Littlebox v1 (2015 edition) > Sony PCM-M10 @ 24/48; location: Front left corner of foh stand @ 10′
recorded and transferred by Gordon Wilson***A Team Dirty South Recording***
Gov’t Mule And Friends
01 Warren Greeting
03 *#@32-20 Blues
05 &+!^Dreams >
06 &+!^Mountain Jam >
07 &+!Drum Solo >
08 &+!^Mountain Jam
09 Band Introductions
Warren Haynes – Guitar And Vocals
Jorgen Carlsson – Bass
Danny Louis – Keyboards And Vocals
Tony Caldwin – Drums
* Mike Barnes(Guitar)
# Smokey Greenwell(Harmonica)
@ Marcus King(Guitar)
^ Branford Marsailes(Saxophone)
$ Jeff Sipe(Drums)
% Steve Kimock(Guitar And Lap Steel)
& Paul Riddle (Drums)
+ Duane Trucks (Drums)
! Tony Coleman or Count M’Butu(Percussion)**HELP** & Rocky Lindsley(Drums)
Source: Schoeps CCM4V’s> Lunatec V2> Benchmark AD2K> Sound Devices 722 (24/44)
FOB/DFC/KFC/ZFC/AARP 37′ From Stage, 6′ High
Recorded By: Z-Man
Peggy-O was not written, but interpreted, by the Grateful Dead. It is a traditional Scottish folk song, done by Bob Dylan in 1962 on his first album and the Dead starting in 1973.
“Krauss rejoined them a few songs later for a religious version of “Helpless, Helpless, Helpless,” at the end of which Haynes called on the crowd to sing along. After a pair of tunes joined by the legend Muddy Waters and a version of “King Harvest” they ramped it back up.”
It’s just one “Helpless”. Also, Muddy Waters passed away in 1983. That was Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, who played with Muddy back in the ’70’s. Otherwise, not a bad write-up.
Sounds like a great show! I’m curious about the pair of songs “joined by Muddy Waters,” though, since he’s been dead for more than thirty years . . .