I have mixed emotions about this show. I was not planning on going, and at the last minute my buddy and I decided to run up and try and score tickets. With the thought of not getting in being too much to bare we spent more than we had planned but were pumped to be inside. The first set was well played, but it seemed like the band was holding back for the most part. I wanted them to kick it up a notch and it never happened. I don't want to say they did not play well, but as I said to my buddy, "They are doing what they are doing well, I just don't like what they are doing." Highlights were Me and My Uncle, Miracle, Playin, and He's Gone. However they never took me to that place I have been to so many times before and longed for this night. Perhaps it's, me but I hope not. On another note this was my second trip to the HOB in Cleveland, and I must say I hate that place. Beautiful venue, but they are afraid someone may not spend a fortune or may have fun.
Matt Zuel, Youngstown , OH
Well, spring finally broke out in northeast Ohio Tuesday night, and with that, all the rats scurried out of the sewers as Ratdog and a couple of guests performed in front of a packed nest at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The music performed tonight would span Bob Weir's long career, both with the Grateful Dead (including songs by ... well you know who) and his solo material, along with nice covers that have been in his repertoire for well over 30 years.
Bobby and the Boys came out a couple minutes after 8 p.m. and started off with the traditional opening jam that led into "Jack Straw." This lead into a mellow "Easy to Slip" (Weir's second solo album) which lead into another jam that evolved into a very smooth "Bird Song Jam." During this movement, ekoostik hookah's percussionist, Johnny Polansky, took the stage for the rest of the set (and most of the second). After the jam, the band landed into a very bluesy "Little Red Rooster." While this was never a favorite of mine, it was performed solidly tonight with all four (Kenny Brooks on sax, Mark Karan on guitar, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, and Bobby on slide) taking turns on lead for a real nice lengthy jam. Afterwards the band went into a song from Bobby and the Midnites album: "Josephine." This was a first timer for me, but it almost seemed appropriate as he chanted: "I want to rock n'roll with you" to the audience less then a mile away from the Fame Hall that bears the same name. Next, the band flowed into an original Ratdog piece from their "Evening Moods" disc with the song "Lucky Enough." Then came a nice rockin' "Greatest Story Ever Told" from his first solo album "Ace." Personally, I found this to be a first set highlight for me, not only because of it was the first time I ever heard it performed live, but also because it really rocked the place. This song led into the Stones cover "Last Time," leaving the packed house smiling at the beginning of intermission.
Approximately 20 minutes after intermission began, the lights grew dim again, and Bobby and Mark came out with acoustics, and Robin Sylvester broke out a standup bass (which would remain for the next few songs) to play an acoustic "KC Moan." Afterwards Jay Lane (drums), Jeff and Johnny walked back on stage for another old Midnites tune called "City Girls." Afterwards, "Me and My Uncle" led into a jam that turned into "I Need a Miracle." This lead into a very smooth "Playin' in the Band," and then things slowed down for the Garcia classic "He's Gone." I'm on record as saying I'm not a fan of Weir's vocal approach to "He's Gone." I guess I am used to the other guy's flowing vocal delivery to the song and not Bobby's staccato approach. However, by no means was I disappointed in tonight's performance of it. Then the roof came down .... another guest appeared on bass side and absolutely tested the very foundation to the house. Bobby, Jeff, and Mark left the stage while Wibur Krebs from Alphabet Soup got plugged in and was all over the bass fret board. Very few can play lead on a bass but this guy ripped it apart. At times Kenny and him would exchange licks with Kenny just kicking back and smiling as Wilbur just took the lick and went off on it. This dude is sick, and I will find out more about him since I never heard of him before. Then it was Johnny's (from Hookah) turn to take the lead as he and Jay went on an intense (about five minute) drum solo (with Kenny and Wilbur adding some flair). Next, Wilbur exited the stage as the missing reappeared, and the band was into another Garcia ballad, "Wharf Rat." This time Bobby handled the vocals more than admirably; however, whoever was singing the high part during the bridge was way too sharp, but hey, they aren't supposed to be a band known for perfection, rather, sometimes reflection. After Rat, the song not the band, led into a very high "China Cat Sunflower" into the traditional "I Know You Rider." Afterwards everyone that was on stage, at some point of the night, returned for a "Johnny B Goode" encore and the evening was over at around 11:45 p.m.
Overall the music was very solid, the sound very clear, and at any given time, I could easily hear whatever instrument I was interested in hearing at that point. Bobby looked great and sang with vigor the whole night. At times his guitar was a little loud in the mix, evidence that Healy doesn't work for Bob, but it was clear. The musicians in the band were all playing strong tonight, but I have to give notice to two very fine performances by keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and sax player Kenny Brooks. Jeff gave an outstanding performance on the keys, for which more than one well deserved round of applause was given in response to a job very well done. Kenny has grown in this group. Each time he stepped on the rug to give a solo he did it with authority, despite the fact that I couldn't get the image of Jimmy Fallon doing French Stewart out of my head.
The faithful, both new and old, didn't just come and hear a bit of old nostalgia. They had a chance to see Weir bring a collage of both new and old material presented in a way that was distinctly Bobby and they did it for a sold out house that left with a smile and the knowledge that for almost four hours, Bob Weir and Company had a chance to rock n' roll with them. And then finally, the rats scurried out into a warm Cleveland night.
Richard Findlay, Cleveland, OH
Great show, and I can't add much to what Findaly and the next 2 said about the music. I got tired of the crowd up front, too, but HoB is not so big you can't have great concert anyway in the back. Liked the mixture of old with new perspective. One thing: DEADHEADS: it's NOT a sing-along! Really, for half the songs, I couldn't hear the vocals because of the crowd's singing. Glad everyone enjoyed it, though.
Kav, Cleveland, OH