Bob Weir sends out campfire smoke signals in a long and winding ACL Live show

Bob Weir performs the first of two nights at ACL Live on Saturday, April 15, 2017. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

If you’re headed to ACL Live tonight for the second show of Bob Weir’s Easter-weekend stand at ACL Live, it’ll help if you appreciate the following things:

1.  Guitars, guitars, guitars. The six-string was pretty much king during Weir’s culture-changing decades in the Grateful Dead too, thanks to the late Jerry Garcia’s instrumental mastery. But backed by the six-piece Campfire Band — featuring three members of indie-rock heavyweight the National — on this tour, Weir leans even more heavily on guitars, both acoustic and electric. The concert was an axe aficionado’s dream: Except for a few solo tunes to kick things off, every number had at least three guitars, and some featured as many as five.

2. Country-folk music. This was always an element of the Dead’s music, so it’s no surprise Weir turned in that direction on last year’s “Blue Mountain,” his first solo album since 1978. Behind him on the big screen, gorgeous images of natural splendor set the tone: sepia-toned photos of rustic prairie scenes, aerial footage of winding rivers and streams, beautiful images of the Grand Tetons during “Cottonwood Lullaby” (an album and concert highlight). The visual backdrop set the tone for music that emphasized wide-open rural sounds, with accents of pedal steel, mandolin and upright bass frequently easing into the mix.

3. Long and winding songs. Surprise! It’s not a Dead show, so by comparison these selections might have seemed truncated. But relative to most performers, Weir still runs 10Ks rather than wind sprints. Opening with an eight-minute solo-acoustic version of the early-mid-’70s Dead staple “Loose Lucy,” Weir squeezed three more songs into the next 18 minutes (highlighted by the new album’s title track) before the band joined him. In all, the show lasted 3 hours and 5 minutes, broken up by a 35-minute intermission. At 20 songs across two and a half hours onstage, that comes out to an average of more than seven minutes a song. (Allowing for a little onstage banter, of which there was little; Weir mostly just lets the music do the talking.)

4. The sweet, smoky smell of Rocky Mountain high herbs. That stuff ain’t legal in Texas, but billowing puffs of smoke still rose from the packed floor level every few minutes or so. By the end of the night, a lingering haze hovered in the balcony, settling down over the crowd like a warm blanket. Such clouds at concerts usually come from a fog machine, which Weir didn’t employ — unless you count the longstanding followers guaranteed to turn out for for his gigs. It may be 2017, but the Deadheads aren’t dead yet.

5. Standing on concrete for long periods of time. If you’re in the mezzanine or balcony, this doesn’t apply, of course. But probably a good half of Saturday’s crowd jammed into the standing-room floor level, most arriving well before the 7:30 p.m. scheduled start time. (The line to get through security was still all the way down the block at that point, so the show didn’t actually begin until around 7:45.) That’s a lot of time on your feet, but the fans down there — a surprisingly broad spread of generations — didn’t seem to mind. Indeed, when Weir finally departed just before 11 p.m. after a two-song encore that included one last solo number plus a splended full-band version of the traditional tune “Peggy-O,” someone shouted out an endurance-testing request: “One More Set!”

Set list:
1. Loose Lucy
2. KC Moan
3. Black-Throated Wind
4. Blue Mountain
5. Only a River
6. Darkest Hour
7. Ghost Towns
8. Cottonwood Lullaby
9. Lay My Lily Down
10. Rosa Lee McFall
11. Gonesville
12. Me and My Uncle
13. Dark Hollow
14. Tennessee Jed
15. Minglewood Blues
16. Playing in the Band
17. Eyes of the World
18. Morning Dew
19. Ki-Yi Bossie
20. Peggy-O

Bob Weir & the Campfire Band perform the first of two nights at ACL Live on Saturday, April 15, 2017. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

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