The State Theatre is a great venue to see Ratdog! Itís about half the size of DCís 9:30 Club, which I frequently visit, and the acoustics are just as good. Bobby was really ready to play this night. He came out with his acoustic guitar and played with Sanjay Mishra Group before Ratdog came on.
Ratdog started out with an upbeat jam into Shakedown Street. Bobby switched to his acoustic guitar in the tail end of Shakedown, and out of nowhere came She Belongs to Me. Walkin Blues was next, and sounded great with the slide licks coming from Bobbyís acoustic, and his exaggerated movements got some impressive cheers from the crowd. Bobby was pulling his tricks out early in the show that night! Bobby grabbed his electric guitar and Brown-Eyed Women brought the crowd into a sing-along, and Deep Elem Blues was played with a funky chop style rhythm that got people stomping. Bury Me Standing was down and dirty, with a surprising Scarlet Begonias to finish the set.
The second set started with a small jam that exploded into I Need a Miracle, which became a strong sing-along. A high energy New Speedway Boogie got the crowd riled up even more, and that crept into a creepy Even So. Bobby and the band had a strong blues influence in them this night as you can see from the setlist, but then changed they directions. October Queen sent a swanky jazz-influenced romp through the crowd, into The Deep End where the improv jamming began to start. Uncle Johnís Band materialized and slipped into Heavenís Door, with Bobby on acoustic guitar once more. Lady With a Fan blew in so gently, right into an intense Terrapin Station, and back into Uncle Johnís Band. The crowd hardly let the band walk off stage! They came back so fast for the encore. It was a flawless At a Sliding and Terrapin Flyer that was left out of Terrapin Station. That Bobby.... Always full of surprises!
Neil Lewis, Stevensville, MD
This was my first Dog show. I'm used to seeing Bob Weir play to stadiums, and leave in a band van. I wanted to know if he still brought deadication to this more low-key lifestyle.
The audience didn't roar, as they would have for Jerry, when Bobby suddenly appeared onstage to jam with opening act Sanjay Mishra. Their reception seemed to say, "Oh, hi Bob. Back in the neighborhood again? You're a familiar face."
Weir played furiously with an ill-amplified guitar during his brief stint alongside Sanjay, on a space tune characterized by repetitive figures. He bent to hear the drift of the music, and in time he got it and added his signature chops, rhythmic rips in which it is possible to actually feel the weight of his right hand. It was a pleasure to hear that right hand again for the rest of the night. It spells comfort, groove, ease.
Music seems three imensional (or more) to Weir, judging from how he moves on stage: he steps back from it, flirts with starting something at the microphone, then reconsiders, walks through it, behind it, in front of it. It's like a gazebo that he's inspecting for the most salubrious spot.
The encore of Terrapin material rarely played live by the Dead was executed with outstanding precision, suggesting that although this band plays in America's shirttails and beerfoam palaces, these guys have impeccable ambitions.
As a sidelight, I am impressed by the quiet, calm modesty Weir gives off. He has a charisma that was underrecognized on Dead stages. As concertmaster, just his raised head or hand gave the band direction.
We joke in our Deadhead clique about showing Bobby the love when he comes to D.C. I've missed doing that at countless 9:30 Club gigs, and even the wacky outlier at Dewey Beach awhile back. But I don't plan to miss showing Bobby the love in the future.
Rich McManus, Bethesda, MD