"Fun show" I wish I could say. Not quite. I knew I wanted to listen to some prehistoric Ratdog, some vintage '95. This date I chose 'cause it's one I've never heard before. While I was imagining the music alone, I did not think too much about the show's date, or more appropriately, when the date is.
In between the Dead's Summer and what should've been Fall Tour, Bobby's back home again in the Bay Area after finishing up his little side-project Ratdog tour on the East Coast. A two-night Warfield stand had already been scheduled... and so this would be... the very first show after Jerry.
Since the funeral and memorial a few months earlier, Bob went back out and wrapped up 7 shows. Not for a second can I imagine that was easy for the Bobster. And I don't have the feeling that it was easy on this night, as well. Why not? He'd already gotten back out there. Why not? First show on the West Coast and where's it takin' place? Right in Jerry's Warfield.
Right off the bat Bombs Away seemed kinda flat to me. It was good but the energy level was just not as cranked as it could've been. Take Me To The River on the otherhand, seemed to have the band really getting in the groove. The crowd fully appreciated that, a song several had heard this year already from Bob when the Dead busted it out on Spring Tour in Memphis. Maybe it was the tune, maybe it was because the show had a short break at the end of the song and the fans could let Bobby know they appreciated him takin' the stage that night to give them some of what they've been missing. No, this isn't the Dead. Not at all. But it's Bobby carrying on.
A few acoustic numbers later and it was time for another "Dead" song -- Dylan's When I Paint My Masterpiece. Because of its frequency in the GD rotation (they sure did adopt it, didn't they?!) it might as well be one of the Dead's very own. Okay, it's not really but it's so loved and the crowd so loved it on this night. Listening to this I felt there was an immense bond between the folks at the Warfield and this song in particular. That could only do with missing Jerry. The Dead was no more. Jerry's departure was just way too damn soon and way too damn sudden so hearing Masterpiece was some sort of connection to that which has left us. And within Masterpiece is the line, "Everything's gonna be different." That's actually just the first half of the line and while it finishes up with, "when I paint my masterpiece," if you take just the first part alone, and many did on this night, it's an example of lyrics kinda sorta taking on some new meaning in this time of mourning that everyone, Bobby included, was still going through.
Another lyrically difficult moment or two comes in Easy To Slip -- "Well the whole world seems so cold today. All the magic's gone away. And our time together melts away. Like a sad melody I play." Heartbreaking almost. These same lines that Bobby's sung for years are now no longer just the same as they always were. The fans recognize it. They even cheer those lines which to me has got to be a nod to Jerry, a nod to Bobby for singing that which is now about Jerry, a toast to Jerry's life and yeah, we know He's Gone, and Bob, thanks for playing this music and carrying inside of you and giving to us the spirit of your dear friend, that man we never knew but loved so much. Easy To Slip may never have been in the GD rotation but it all comes back to Bobby just bein' up there and just playing in a band to bring music to the Deadheads. Damn, this is not easy to type about.
Like I said, I wish this was just a fun show... but it's deeper than that and another telling moment comes during Rob's bass solo. Yet again he goes into some song which I can't place my finger on the name of but he's been doing that in Bob & Rob shows for years. In any case, he goes from that to Satisfaction (which the crowd totally digs) and then comes the moment -- Amazing Grace. The crowd cheers to give thanks to Rob for honoring Jerry... and then it gets really quiet in the theater, so quiet you could hear a roach clip drop. The collective sadness and reflection at that moment must have been so immense. It's so brief but lasts an eternity erupting into applause at the end. Again, Thanks, Rob.
Cheezy... I mean, Easy Answers rolls out of the bass solo. I've gotta say that this tune has seemingly found new life post-GD as a Ratdog standard. The band comes rollin' out strong here. Earlier, near the end of Easy To Slip, hey were groovin' away in such a beautiful almost Dead-like jam, the best moment of the night musically... but it was wayyyyyy too short as Bobby stepped up to the mic and wrapped it up wayyyyyy too soon. Uuuuuuuugh!!! Nooooooo!!!! If you imagine what was there as a block of time, that could've so easily been doubled or multiplied times 3 or 4 times to really jam out the song. Not for awhile to come, though. This night wasn't really about jamming away. There was a lot more goin' on here that just puttin' on a sweet show.
This night was about carrying on and Bobby made that clear during the opening of the set's final song, Josephine. Up to the mic he stepped: "I wanna thank y'all for comin' here tonight. First time for everything." Sure, there've been Ratdog shows since that horrible day... but this show was the first back in SF and he knew it loud and clear.
By this time so close to end of the show, I'm sure most of the jitters had been gone, if there were any there at all. I can't imagine for a second this was a show Bobby was actually looking forward to playing. But it had to be done. And they got it done and so did Vince Welnick making his Ratdog debut. He wasn't very loud in the mix all night long, unfortunately. There were a few moments he shined and during Josephine, Bobby kinda sorta introduced him, not that Vince needed introducing but Bob verbally threw it to him and Vince lit into Josephine so perfectly. Ahh, gorgeous!
The first encore featured Vince on vocals with George Harrison's It's All Too Much (which was broken out on Spring Tour earlier in the year. Nice to see it returning here.) For this song, the band, with guest Henry Kaiser, was just so on, sounding fuller than at any other time of the show, possibly with the exception of that jam in Easy To Slip. But even then, no Kaiser.
A second encore immediately follows It's All Too Much and once again it brought the crowd to a place no one wanted to be. Knockin' On Heaven's Door, as I wrap up listening to this show for the third time in just a day and a half, is, for the third time, bringing some tears to my eyes. Like with Amazing Grace, the theater falls silent at times. It's so intense... and it's so sad. One dude cries out to Jerry, something inaudible at first, then the second and third times it's just a yell and then just a "Jerr-ryyyyyyyyy."
Just another early Ratdog show? Hardly.
Zooomabooma, Fairbanks, Alaska