Well it was opening night on a 4 night mini "warm up" run for the upcoming big spring tour. As usual at the House of Blues in Anaheim things would be quite interesting both inside and outside. For the 4th straight year the lines just to get into the venue rivaled the line outside Pink's hotdog stand at 2 AM on a weekend if you catch my drift. Well, since it was my fourth trip to Disney to catch Bob and company I've learned a few tricks over the years. Get their early if you can and eat at the venue, they have a seperate line that allows you early entry. So that's what myself, Robbie and about 100 more folks did prior to the show. Once we got in, we got situated with Chicago Joe right in the center of the room (capacity 950). We watched the room fill up and wondered how packed it would get during the show. Inside the security was questionable at best, but it's Disneyland. Okay now on with the show . . . Ratdog finally hit the stage around 9:20pm. A nice little tuning and smiles all around as "Here Comes Sunshine" evolved from the jam. Bob looked focused and seemed to have lost a few lbs. since the show up in Saulsalido over Labor Day weekend. It was a very Wake of the Flood type of night as the Dog morphed into "Help on the Way>Slipknot", well being somewhat of a veteran of Bob shows, I figured we'd get the Franklin's as the 2nd set closer, so what would be next? Classic Bob that's what. "Easy to Slip>Supplication" with words really gave Ratdog time to explore in what was really a dress rehearsal type show. Bob was directing traffic as usual throughout the jams. Bassist Robyn Sylvester has got to be one of the more seemless bassists out there today. And what I mean by that is that he knew exactly each direction Bobby wanted to go in and you know come to think of it, maybe it's Bob who seems to get lost in the jam. It makes sense, you know . . .anyway, "Little Red Rooster" was next and this is what the Dog does 2nd best, blues rock. Saxophonist Kenny Brooks led the first jam, I believe Bobby took the second and Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti led the third but it was the crowd who were the 'houndogs that began to howl' singing and howling along. "Birdsong" followed and again gave Ratdog time to explore. It was a complete Birdsong too, none of this start it in the first set ended somewhere later stuff, full on complete with the 'Rain and Snow' vocals by Bob towards the end. Next up was a rockin' "All Over Now" which had the HOB boogying, if you could find room to dance as it was tight in there. The original Ratdog tune, "She Said" was next and that's what Ratdog does best, their original music. Very well played and a nice segue into a set closer of "Liberty" in which Bob had a problem or two with the lyrics, but it's opening night.
Boom Boom Boom. Acoustic, Blackbird, Acoustic Friend of the Devil, Acoustic Masterpiece. What better way to start off a set, Beatles>Grateful Dead>Bob Dylan. Right into "Playin' in the Band" which went into a Coltranesque jam that had Bobby leaving the stage for an extended period. Once he came back, a Ratdog first or bust out if you will occured, "Row Jimmy" (you thought I'd forget the Wake of the Flood reference). Prior to singing Jimmy, Bobby was handed a pair of glasses to read the lyrics!! Very odd moment, but the glasses would help because the Dog really had a good time with Row Jimmy. Especially at the end jam with the "Row Jimmy Row", that's what you call Bobified. Another original Two Dijnn was up next, followed by "Foolish Heart" where Bob kept the glasses on too. They had also sound checked this one earlier. By this time it was getting late, so Robbie and I said our good byes (we had a party in L.A) and figured that all we'd miss on the way out was the "Franklin's Tower" and the encore. Well by looking at the setlist, we were right on in our estimation.
For an opening night you couldn't ask for much more than what we got. It only goes up from here . . .
Itzy, Los Angeles, CA
I. Jam > Here Comes Sunshine > Help on the Way > Slipknot > Easy to Slip > Supplication > Little Red Rooster, Birdsong, It's All Over Now, (>?) She Said > Liberty
II. Blackbird* > Friend of the Devil** > When I Paint My Masterpiece***, Playing in the Band > Jam^ > Row Jimmy^^, Two Djinn > Foolish Heart > Franklin's Tower
E: Touch of Grey
* Acoustic - Bobby, Mark, Robin (stand up bass),
**Acoustic - Jeff, Jay joined halfway thru,
*** Bob (and Robin?) on acoustic - Kenny joined,
^ Clear (to my ears) Other One and Shine on You Crazy Diamond teases; about 6 minutes of jam w/o Bobby.
^^ First Row Jimmy
First, I prefer Hollywood HOB over Anaheim ANY day. But the crowd was pumped and it was a good scene, despite being behind the Orange Curtain and the venue being in the middle of the Manufactured-est Place on Earth.
Got a good spot on the floor, so it was easy to see that the first part of the first set was spent dusting off those rusty strings. Bobby had a lot of technical issues and seemed a little bothered by ut. But things really got going with the Slipknot>Easy to Slip>Supplication. It started falling into place.
The Rooster was executed perfectly and the It's All Over Now was surprising to me but fun. Good Liberty to close out.
After a shortish set break the three string guys handled the acoustic portion perfectly. Bobby's changed the arrangement of some familiar GD songs, so it's funny - and slightly annoying - to hear the crowd sing along to the old versions, while Bobby's doing the new version.
The Playin>Jam was very jazzy and very loose. They seemed to really open it up - and the band was clearly enjoying themselves when Bobby left them to their own devices for 6 or 7 minutes. I thought that Kenny became the defacto band leader in Bob's absence. Great Foolish thru Franklins to end. Touch was a nice, emotional sing along.
All in all, a very good show, but you could tell it was the first night back. The band really seemed to turn it up on the Ratdog originals, as opposed to the GD tunes. I think that's a good sign for their future.
JKM, Pasadena, CA
Bob Weir delievered a show that seemed almost heavenly. The charisma of himself, as well as the band, truly lifted the croud to a higher place. He played a setlist that seemed like a dream to all deadheads and Ratdog fans. Opening with 'Here comes the sunshine' filled my senses with peace and serenity. This preformance had everything we needed, and even more. When Weir lead the band into 'Bird Song','Little Red Rooster', 'Easy to Slip', and 'Freedom', I was practically in tears of shock and happiness. Not only do these songs clearly fit Weir's style, they also fit the style of Ratdog extremely well. The first set was clearly unbelievable, and the second set only offered more. When 'Row Jimmy' began, the crowd excelled into a heavenly state of awe and shock. Weir played and sang this song with power and peacefullness. This was truly a treat to everyone in the small house of blues. However, I would say the highlights of this masterpiece concert would be that of 'Foolish Heart' and 'Blackbird.' Not only is foolish heart one of my favorite songs, it's lyrics are most definitely true and long lasting. Weir's version of the Beatles' 'Blackbird' was particulary special because he seemed to really enjoy that song, and the entire crowd was at ease when he belted it out. Overall, I would have to say, out of the number of Ratdog/Weir shows I've ever seen, this show definitely will forever remain as one of the greatest. Whether it was the friendliness of the fans, or just the setlist, I felt welcomed and in need of the awesome music that surrounded me. This show opened the anticipated tour with a huge bang. I was privaleged and honored to have experienced the powerful aroma of this four hour event. I am grateful.
A grateful fan, Southern California
Sweet show. Which is to say, not a hot show, nor one that cracked open the gateway to other worlds. More of a mellow groove abounding in warm feelings. (Reminded me a little of the serene set 2 from 4-28-85, a favorite) Last year the band opened Spring Tour at Anaheim with a show that blasted out of the box like Secretariat at the Belmont. This year, they hit the boards like a wise old prophet dispensing wisdom on a mountainside under a gleaming crescent moon, the Dog Star shining nearby. Frangelico, rather than margaritas.
There were a lot of tentative moments this time out – a fair amount time was spent vamping in a nice groove but without exploration, kind of marking time until Bobby gave the signal. That said, the jamming (which is my main reason for going) was mostly a mellower workout – it may have flown low over the waves, like the graceful brown pelicans along the SoCal coast, but it flew in some amazing and unexpected patterns that made the night unique. Especially in the 1st set Slipknot and the strange and wonderful Playin’ jam in Set 2. Rather than brilliant solo work, there was a lot of textural exploration, with some new provinces of RatSpace revealed for the first time (at least, to me).
All the songs were played well, with heart & conviction, but the ones that really rose to the top for me: Liberty (love the way that number makes your hips and backbone slide!), FOTD (MK shining), and the one song I asked from the universe beforehand – Foolish Heart, which just sparkled and swung. The Row Jimmy breakout was very tight, nicely sung, no reggae section at the end. It felt like MK was still searching for the inner character of the song, his solo questing but not yet finding. It’s wonderful for me, as an audience member, to be part of this ongoing process, and extremely cool of the band to let us in on it. The Ratdog originals, while among my favorites, carried that embracing vibe that wrapped up the whole night.
Instrumentally, the rhythm section of Jay & Robin just blew me away. I love Robin’s bass playing - that perfect balance of rhythm and melody -- and Jay (who can sometimes be a little four-square for my taste) was mixing it up with some jazzy, inventive stuff, finding subtle rhythmic and tonal mixtures that kept the music light on its toes. MK ripped out a couple of sterling solos in FOTD and Franklin’s. Kenny was mixed waaay too low most of the time, but when they turned him up, he also got the crowd cheering. Jeff’s solo work consisted mostly of harshly banging block chords didn’t mesh with the tenor of the music, but his ensemble playing was everything you could ask for. Bobby…ah, Bobby. I’d rather listen to him than almost any other guitar player around. Endlessly inventive and fascinating, despite another excruciating slide solo on Rooster.
So, yeah, a sweet show. And the crowd matched the mood. It was one of the friendliest nights, everyone so relaxed and happy. Lots of hugs all around after the Touch encore, from friends and strangers alike.
And while I don’t know why the boys had the Canadian flag placed next to the US flag on the on-stage board (stage left), it was wonderful to see it there. Canada’s about the smartest country out there right now, and anything that can rub off on the UsofA would be most welcome!
MWCowboy, Los Angeles, CA