Didn't see the first night, so I was eager to get in there for night #2. Great start with a loose jam to get going, all ears on DJ Logic. He made some fantastic scratchy additions to the stranger opener... very cool. Stranger sounded a little stilted to me, but I love the song, so no problem. A couple of funny little jams took us to Minglewood, which was pretty kickin'. Bob cracked us up putting on a funny character voice for "stealin' womens from their other mens." Brown-Eyed was great to hear but I wasn't sure Bob sang it in the best key for his voice, nor was I sure the band had it down. This was a scenario that repeated itself a few times, where the band seemed somewhat less than sure of how some of the Garcia tunes went, though when it came time to jam, they never disappointed. Eternity - same deal, kind of a rough skeletal version of the song itself, but once Wasserman told us to make love through eternity, they opened it up big time and blew doors. Beautiful. Candyman was a nice treat too, but again a bit rough around the edges. It was nice to hear them doing the Jerry classics, but definitely reminded us just what a master of 'feel' old Jer was. Karan ripped it up nicely on FOTD. These guys have that one down. The Bury Me-Greatest-Begonias closer medley was good. Again, bury me didn't really take off until the jams, then it hit high peaks. Greatest is always a time for bobby to shine, love the guitar playing on this one - he's got his own thing to offer the world and this is part of it. Scarlet felt a little funny but was enjoyable and they did a nice neat version with the old-school ending intact. The Bury Me jam seemed like a bit of an afterthought and ended quickly into the break, which was mercifully short! They came back out in what seemed like 15-20 minutes at the most. I see love supreme jam on the setlist but i don't recall that. It was more like key-of-e jam to me, with bluesy overtones. Thought it might be a Speedway, but Truckin' made sense and was pretty good and rocking. After some waves of jamming, it sure sounded like they'd head into Smokestack or Spoonful, but that dissipated quickly and we got Ramblin' Rose. Great song, but keeping with the night's trends, it seemed a little forced. Wasserman in particular seemed either a bit bored or just unsure of the changes. No big deal, but this one wasn't the revelation it has been in the past. The next medley more than made up for any rough edges, though - Pink Floyd's Matilda Mother was a great surprise and was very well done. Classic 60's psychedelia filtered through the RatDog lens. and they out and out nailed TNK in the middle of it, big time spooky jamming with all the freaky outer reaches well explored. I thought this medley might've been some of the strongest playing of the night. Samson was almost painfully weak with Bob on tambourine at first, but thankfully he went back to guitar and things picked right up for a rocking version.
At which point Wasserman, Lane and DJ Logic put on a great, brief groove-fest for us. This was awesome, very unique in the context of the whole show, and a solid piece of mix'd media improv. Wasserman went absolutely insane with his bow'd standup after taking a little audio-cue from Logic. Very cool. I was sorry it ended so quickly. I think they were getting pressed for time at this point.
Ashes was cool - keep hearing this song but still don't feel like i know it that well, but it got people dancing and covered lots of interesting territory on the jams. The Stephen>11 / Enc: Touch closer was exactly how they closed the last RatDog show i saw, so that anti-climaxed me just a taste, but it was really well done and Stephen esp. got the place rocking and fired up. Much like with Bury Me Standing at the end of the first set, they did this weird little 11 reprise after sounding like they'd ended it, and while it was nice to have the set get extended a bit, I didn't feel like it really added anything they hadn't already said.
Then they RUSHED back out for the encore in under 30 seconds, must've been having curfew issues or something, as Bob and Jay started touch before the rest of the band was even in position. It was a nice utilitarian version, and we had a big laugh right at the beginning: as I commented to my friend Vince that Bob looks to be in a hurry to get this one underway, Bob comes in with "must be getting early...." Made perfect sense to us! They kept the big we-will-get-by choruses to a single pass at the end and brought it to a nice clean close and off they went after a quick bow. After years of seeing the dead just walk off with a wave, it's still funny to me how both Bob and Phil's bands all take the bow at the end. How they could get comfortable with that kind of show-biz move after 30+ years is beyond me, but it's sweet none-the-less, and a nice chance to let the crowd say thanks directly.
Overall, a great fun show with some serious highlights amidst some kind of rough reprising of several old dead favorites. The preponderance of Garcia songs surely had something to do with this. When they fly, they fly, but when they don't, BRING ON THE BOB SONGS! Get this one for the jams, and for the Matilda/TNK sandwich, if nothing else. Thanks and see ya next time, Bobby.
Scott Judd, Chicago, IL