The band opened with a now familiar 'Jam', just to get us in the mood! Not that we needed it. Bobby's Telecaster seemed out of tune so he quickly changed if for a more tuneful model. The first few numbers saw the band finding its feet; then came a real turning point. 'She Says,' which ended with a delicate move down-beat, to a real groovy 'West LA Fadeaway.' The band was in full flow for the rest of the set with killer versions of 'Brown-Eyed Women' and personal favourite 'Scarlet Begonias.' While the first set hit some pretty high spots, I felt there was more in the offing. I wasn't disappointed!
Set two started with a fairly tame 'Candyman' but really started to cook with 'Black-Throated Wind.' For me, the highlight of the whole show was a blistering 'St Stephen> Eleven' with the band and the audience going on total meltdown.' Wowwwwwweeeeeeee! 'Not Fade Away' ended the set in familiar fashion with an ecstatic crowd clapping a screaming for an encore, which came with a really beautiful 'Brokedown Palace'
Thanks guys - Come again sooooooooooon!
Dickie D, Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Look - I know I have been enthusiastic in my reviews, but man - last night's show rocked.
I arrived in a warm sunny Manchester (that's rare) to see the band arriving and walking into the venue for the soundcheck. It couldn't have been ready, as I went back to my car to wait a while, and Kenny, Jeff, and Jay all walked right by me off to kill some time while Robin stood outside talking to fans.
A wonderful venue, very small, about 600 people max, but the downstairs stage area meant that everyone was very close to the stage. Intimate? You bet. I was lucky. I got to be in the second row right in front of Kenny. The stage was about a foot and a half high and there Ratdog was right in front of me.
At 8.25pm the band walked on stage and played a blistering first set that lasted 1hr 18mins. This was clearly going to be an end of tour session. The band looked up for it and the audience definitely was. The set list you can see; it's hard to pick out best bits as it was all great. Personal favourites were Baby Blue and Scarlet Begonias, and Iko Iko was a great close with a very enthusiastic audience singing along as if their lives depended on it.
Then the 30 minutes break which allowed us to catch our breath. 9.15pm and the boys were back on stage. Sometimes you think a show can't get any better and then "Candyman" starts. 'Nuff said. I could analyse each song and say how good they were, but shit, they were all great, really they were. Coming back in from the Jam and into "Wharf Rat" and then everything up to the close was just fantastic and really moved to another level. The encore was perfect; the chorus of "Fare thee well" was well chosen for the last night in the UK. I hope it's just a fare well and not goodbye! At 11.55 the band left. A show lasting 2hr 50mins. Longest on the tour.
I can't speak highly enough of these guys. I saw three shows and not one song was repeated. Looking at the set lists I think only one song was repeated in the UK. This is a real band demonstrating they can play different styles and songs and reflect different moods each night. This is what is missing in music today.
If you have chance to get a copy of the Manchester show, do. You will not be disapointed. I would say the three I saw - this, London, and MK - were all excellent for very different reasons, but I don't know maybe you had to be there!
So Bob - thanks to you and the boys for coming over. I think you know from the audience reactions you were appreciated. We hope and look forward to you coming back soon.
Welded, London, England
This was the first gig for Ratdog, even the good ol' Grateful Dead, in Manchester? Great to have Bob and the band here, this being the last gig on the UK tour.
This was my first visit to Life Cafe. It's a modern venue, but I found it really cramped downstairs with little space between front of stage to the back bar area. The stage was too low, spoiling the view, and there were occasional unecessary blinding lights. Wish the band had played at Manchester University's Hop and Grape instead, but maybe next time you're here Bob will check that venue out! Only good thing about the venue was the poweful air conditioning so we didn't overheat.
Anyhow, yep the muzik; highlights for me were a good Truckin and Dylan cover Baby Blue. Brown-Eyed Women was absolutely superb. Enjoyed West LA Fadeaway even though I hadn't heard it before; the band really got it right again on this one. I was really pleased to hear Scarlet Begonias; it's always been a favoutite of mine, and Bob and company played it superbly. Aiko Aiko was the coconut island rousing crowd pleaser and effectively executed.
Second set started with good old Candyman, which I though was averagely done. I seriously missed Jerry's gravelly cutting voice that always made it special.
Sorry, Bob, but the next four tracks did nothing for me, and I had to rest my aching legs. The culprits were Bury Me Standing, Black-Throated Wind, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, and Ashes & Glass, but I'm not too arrogant to consider that others out didn't enjoy them. Just to think Bertha was on the playlist before Schoolgirl; it would have been a premier. Bob, why not! The mystery of playlist selection confounds me. Maybe next time you're in Manchester...
The set revived with Wharf Rat ending in a superb jam and my legs stopped aching. St Stephen and William Tell bridge were again superbly timed and executed, total magic, and real crowd pleasers. They, along with Scarlet Begonias, were my personal highpoints. Not Fade Away was good rocky and crisp. The encore Brokedown Palace always was and still is beautiful.
Overall a really great gig in the Grateful Dead mould with Bob and Ratdog's improvisation and touch. I really wanted the band to play Eyes of the World, Help on the Way, Franklin's Tower, and Sugar Magnolia, but hang on! What is so special and refreshing in this cloned era of concerts and repetion is Ratdog's--as it was with the Grateful Dead's--organic music and different playlists for each venue. Long may Bob and the band rock. I look forward to seeing you all in the UK and Manchester next year.
Paul T, Manchester, England
I gotta say how beautiful it was just to hear that music live again. I'm a Bickershaw 72 vet and last saw the Dead London 1990. When Jer died, I thought that was it.
I was so impressed with the band's focus; Bobby really got into the songs, like the Old West hard times of Brown-Eyed Women and the harshness of Black-Throated Wind. St Stephen into the Eleven--wow, so heavy and driving, it morphed into Love Light. I thought, yeah, here we go, but it came back to the Eleven. That was okay. We'd had Truckin and Baby Blue taking us back to 1966 Dead. We didn't like the Chicago blues funk stuff, but hey, I'm not complaining. Just Take Me to the River, or a Ratdog or Dead Show.
One thing bothered me a bit, but only a bit! It was that, with the band being so focused on the music and giving a lovely, strong, felt performance of the songs, we in the audience may have messed it a bit. We sang along to everything--couldn't do anything else, to be honest. We'd done it with Arthur Lee/Love just a few months back, just for the sheer joy of being in that sound and those songs again. Only thing was, during Candyman, Bobby had to drop out of the singing because we were just hitting the chorus while he was trying to get along with verses, and you could see him try and then realise it clashed. Hell, we enjoyed it; hope Bobby didn't mind!
Lastly, Jer wouldn't mind me saying, it's the music isn't it? It carries on. Come back soon, Ratdog, and please can we have the Dead over here too?
Eddie McDonnell, Manchester, UK
I saw some Dead action from every visit since Newcastle-Under-Lyme 1970 and got to the venue with a couple of veterans from the '72 tour, including my friend who accompanied the Seastones part of the show at Alexandra Palace '74 by singing "When Somebody Loves You." Checked out the balcony scene which is a bit chicken in the basket up there so, fortified with some performance enhancers for old time's sake, we got back to the downstairs mosh pit. Bobby and the boys hit the stage and we had a bit of a noodle that eased into Loose Lucy. This got by with a bit of audience help and then "living on reds, vitamin c and cocaine".... We were off; what a fucking treat. Scarlet/Iko is a fantastic set closer; my wife says she had never seen so many copper braceleted arms punching the sky during Iko.
With my voice nearly gone, there was just time to catch up with a few other vets including Pyramid trippers, and the boys were back. Candyman was slow but brought a good vibe. The second set was awesome;you just can't keep still, and when St. Stephen started it was serious twirling time. A lovely encore of Brokedown Palace and that was it. You can always say I wish we'd had Uncle John's, Sugar Mag, or Dark Star (name your fav.), but nearly three hours of this is as good as it gets these days and if you miss a certain "sweet guitar lick" and a smile upon his face, then don't we all.
Lets hope we get a next time soon.
Steelio, Manchester UK