Let's see, about 50 Ratdog shows now, and 22 years with the Dead before that, so I think I get the vibe. 3/2/04 at the Fillmore was flubs, miscues, and a band on automatic pilot with little spirit. Everyone has their down days and for Ratdog this was a low. I suspect they were still getting a grip on things after the bus ride back from L.A.
Bobby tried, I'll give him that, but between the forgotten lines, lack of synch between band members, and lackluster emotion for songs usually blasted with feeling, it was more like a studio outtake session except they kept the tape rolling. Ok, onto specifics. The first set began with a jam that was like trying to start a truck in cold weather, but they managed to pull off a pretty good open with Stranger. But then a lukewarm She Belongs spawned an equally low spark Ramble On, which for this band usually brings down the house. A guitar change, puzzled looks, and on to Senor. Well, Karan's bit was nice and tight, but I thought Bobby was anemic on vocals. Now look, this is not meant to be a chop job on the band, but we all know they're human. Loose Lucy, Bury Me, and Greatest Story were 5 out of 10, but then - Ugh! - one of the worst LA Fadeaways ever, with line timing blown left and right.
Intermission was truly one of those "well, things can only get better" moments. True enough, Set 2 opened with acoustic Blackbird; okay, now we're getting somewhere. But the Bobby McGee that followed--efforted and stillborn. The Weight wasn't bad, two for one now, then -Ugh! another line timing flubfest with Ashes to Glass. Eyes kicked up the dirt (thank God for standards) and the band was there all the way, likely their best of the night. But then...then - Drums and, what's this? What's up with the slinky Zacariah Rose to the mike like he's the s*it. It was not an easy moment, and the audience by and large lost the momentum right then and there. We really could have used a torcher, but Black Peter was slow and the Sugar Mag to finish things out was pretty damn good if you could get past the tired ensemble before us. Clearly the guys were tired and unfocused (except for Karan, who I think carried the night). I didn't even stay for the encore, it was that bad. Hopefully tonight's show will be better. Everyone has an off day. I love this band, but they tried too hard on Tuesday and it showed.
Brian Hardy, Marin County, CA