Bob Weir definitely has been through a change since he played last year. He looks a little aged and burnt around the edges but still can jam. The show started relatively relaxed and the beat was much slower than past shows I have seen. nothing real spectacular in the first set a decent Stranger opener was tight and a good Loser, Mission in the Rain was definitely cool. I actually enjoyred Easy Answers and then predictable Minglewood, Schoolgirl and Loose Lucy. Ashes and Glass rounded out the less than spectacular set. Set 2 didn't have many fireworks KC Moan was okay Black Throated Wind was definitely well read. Dark Star unfortunately was predictable and didn't necesarily evoke the X-factor. There was a mic problem sometime in the set can't remeber. The songs Even So and October Queen is when I think things really got cooking the band definitely hit a groove. This is where Ratdog excels at their own material. It sometimes seems the band is sort of bored playing some of Dead stuff however once they play the originals then the sparks fly. Afrer the break we got Heaven's Door which was okay and Sat Night once again okay. Howver the Ripple encore was sweet. Bobby muttered something about acoustic guitars and country songs still can't figure it out. Something about proving a point that he never played acoustic guitar on a country song. Now it makes sense. One last note Danny Zelisko came on stage before the show and waxed poetic some songs names that were actually played that night which was not cool because he must have seen the setlist. So much for suprises. Peace.
A Wolfman, Phoenix, AZ
I am beginning to really count on these mini Southwestern Winter tours for my Ratdog fix. I often marvel at how living in the Northeast allows one access to so many shows in such close proximity and at multiple times of the year. So the little 4 show run through my territory is a great joy. The parking lot featured the unusual sight of a very developed, although small, shakedown; not a common occurence in my 25+ Ratdog show experience. A general sense of joy and comadarie was in the air and everyone was looking forward to the show. The return to Celebrity Theatre by Ratdog was accented by a slight physical change to the venue, with awesome results: the first 3 rows of seats were removed, creating a great boogie spot literally right up against the stage, and wrapping 300 degrees around the circular venue - spectacular opportunity for dancing and photos. Friends and I were nervous at the complete antithesis of the wall of sound as far as speakers were concerned, but sound turned out to be spectacular and clean. Not loud, better than loud. Ratdog's light show still leaves much to be desired; with such great pedigree I am always stunned that there isn't a better light rig to enhance the show.
I was excited to see a well rested and energized Weir. What I saw when Bob walked out with the rest of the band was a man showing his age. There wasn't a point in the show where he didn't give 100% and his musicianship and vocals are as strong as ever, but something is different and I can't quite put my finger on it. Nor do I necessarily want to. As previously noted by another review, the promoter, Danny Zelisko, read directly from the setlist just minutes before the show, and although he strung the songs into a short ancedote, it was a total bummer. Especially since the show/setlist unfolded fairly consistent with his betrayal.
I won't hit every song; like all shows there were high points and points that were on the way to the high points. Feel Like a Stranger was a great opener, played nice and funky. I am not a big fan of Mission In the Rain, but I am less of a fan of Bob dipping so deep into Jerry's reprotoire. That said, Ratdog plays that song with such reverence and Bob sings it so soulfully, what can I say? Easy Answers alwasy brings a cringe at the beginning, but after seeing this song live for 13 or 14 years, I still can't believe how it has grown and what a killer jam it always morphs into. Loser featured the triumph that I look so forward to. Ashes and Glass continues to be Ratdog's best original; they own that damn tune and it shows how much they love it - more than any other song Ashes and Glass demonstrates how much Ratdog has matured into a complete band. Set break featured a chagrined Danny Zelisko mumbling something about "the band threw away the setlist and is working on it right now", but there is no redemption for that little weasel. Second set featured lots of acoustic for Bobby, including the earliest part of Dark Star. Black Throated Wind was spectacular, a pure Weir song for this Deadhead. The Even So/October Queen/Deep End trio is not the way I would prefer a second set to spend its time, but again Ratdog seems especially energized on their songs, and with this band that generally means great musicianship. But I can think of plenty of other songs I would have liked to see. The Other One & jam was just killer, with Kenny and Jeff really having a great time with each other as the other band members trickled off and then back onto the stage. Knockin' was blissful and got the loudest crowd thunder of the night - emotions were running high throughout this song and its place in the set seemed perfect in experience, but looks out of place on paper. My first Ripple finished the show, and it was a great opportunity for band and crowd to act as one. I truly enjoyed that song and am thankful that I experienced such a rarity. I feel that at some point, at the end of a show, Bob,Mark, Robin,Jeff,Jay and Kenny should stand while the entire crowd joins arms/hands and bows to them - they may give us all they have, and that is quite a lot, but we need to give them all we got once and a while: they deserve it.
Steve Zacher, Gold Canyon, AZ
I have to agree with Wolfman's assessement of the Phoenix show. Local promoter Danny Zelisko getting the setlist out and reading us a poem of what songs the dawg is getting ready to play was bogus. The overall show really lacked in energy imoi. However, that happened at Dead shows all the time. One show completely shreds and the next nite sucks. I am sure Bobby will be on his A game when he starts the official spring tour. Peace.
Matt MacDonald, Phoenix, AZ