The Eyes of the World was EPIC. I mean just simply HOT. Words can't describe the levels they hit on that song. The 1st set was a bit slow and routine, but they came on the 2nd set and just rocked it. By the end of the set the place was on fire and they knew it. Man, I am buying the CD just for the Eyes because it was THAT GOOD. Enjoy, it is for us now.
Alf, Washington, DC
Haven't seen too many Rat Dog shows but I'll be seeing more. That Warner show was awesome! I love this stuff. Great musicianship and jamming and very creative stuff.
dirttrailhead, Fairfax, VA
3/25/2006 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
Show Rating: Live 8.4 (115 fans) | CD 8.2 (22 fans)
3/27/2006 Warner Theatre, Washington, DC
Show Rating: Live 7.0 (32 fans) | CD 6.0 (7 fans)
Well, I'm gonna start off by saying that I think the reviewers have that backwards. I think an 8.4 is a generous--almost unreasonable--rating for Saturday. I think a 7 is way too low for last night. I think last night was WAY better than Saturday. I think 7.5 for Sat, 8.5 or 9 for last night is more like it.
Anyway, there was some epic music played last night, in my opinion. I really couldn't believe how tight and Blues for Allah-ish the Help>Slip was. WOW. Great, tight jamming that curled up into tight little knots of tension that were quickly but carefully untied via Bobby's gentle, effective guidance. He's really turning into quite the band leader. I first noticed this on Saturday during Josephine and then especially during Silvio. His hand signaling has acheived a completely new level. Stranger was good and funky, just like you'd want, and the She Belongs to Me was a nice little treat. I really love that song.
Crazy Fingers is where this show really gelled, imo. They absolutely nailed the watery, carnival-esque feel of the song and built up to some nice, gentle crescendos that fit perfectly with the vibe. This is a song that Erika's never been much of a fan of, but she loved it last night. I was a little bummed about Lucky Enough, but it was well played, and the jam>Dark Star jam>Wharf Rat jam>Dark Star jam> in the middle of it was really well done. I'm kinda tired of the song portion of Tennessee Jed, so I ran to the bathroom real quick and got back in time for the jam at the end, which was excellent. I'm not overly familiar with Wrong Way Feeling, but it was a good rocker with some odd, complicated "horn hits" that the Dog pulled off flawlessly. I was impressed.
Tomorrow Never knows deserves its own little paragraph. A truly transcendent version that was hypnotic and utterly beautiful.
The acoustic portion of set II was very well done. It was nice to hear Bobby on a traditional tune like Peggy-O. Obviously a different reading than Jer gave it, but authentic and heartfelt nonetheless. Mark and Jeff both elicited cheers with gorgeous solos. The Winners is another tune that I am otherwise unfamiliar with, but I really liked it. The jam in the middle was nice and weird and kinda surprised me. I was totally into it.
I have to admit I was initially a little bummed that Keller came out (I'm not much of a fan) until I heard the opening refrains of The Weight. They couldn't have picked a better tune for him to sit in on, and they totally nailed the song. Might that be the first time Bobby has shared a lead vocal? Regardless, it was a good call, as that song is right up Keller's alley, vocally.
He's Gone was well-executed. Bobby really seems to be finding a way to infuse Jerry's tunes with emotion in a way that only Bobby knows how. I've always appreciated his takes, but until this weekend he always seemed somewhat hesitant about how to sing them. But Row Jimmy and Terrapin on Saturday, as well as He's Gone and Standing on the Moon last night, made it clear to me that he is finally able to play and sing these songs with a relative lack of self-consciousness. As a result I found myself convinced of the emotional reality of the tunes once again, albeit in a kind of new way.
Anyhoo, as I was saying, He's Gone was very well executed. Mark did a great job of abstracting the melody during his solo without sounding like he was copping Jerry's lines. I had kind of expected him to just embellish the basic melody, a la Jer, but he didn't, and it was a pleasant surprise. The vocal jam attained that gospel feel and everyone was clapping along, when BAM!, the band dropped into a SMOKIN Eyes, complete with the '74 'Slipknot' breakdown. That was AMAZING! Again the Dog proved that they are not your average band. The song and the jam were tight as hell and had me dancing my ass off.
Stuff was fun both nights. I like how Bobby leaves "the kids" to do their new schoolish thing with the hip hop beats and a bit of an electronica feel, but then comes out and warps and deconstructs the whole thing, kinda like, "hey, that's nice, now check out this weirdness." Hehehe...
Standing on the Moon was INCREDIBLE, imo. I was probably more impressed with Bobby's singing on this than I was at any other point in the two shows. He took command of this song and really brought the show home for me. My gf was even choked up. Good stuff. He nailed the "rather be with you!" refrain at the end in a way that I never really suspected he could.
Corrina was a good time, but they seemed to be kind of running out of stream. They took a stab at the 2nd tier jamming they had achieved repeatedly throughout the night to varying degrees, but didn't quite take off. Franklin's was nothing too incredible, but it was well-played, and they kept it up enough that I got a final fix of hard dancing to cap the night.
Then it was out into the street where there was a nitrous-fest that put Philly to shame. Kinda cracked me up.
I'm not gonna fully review Saturday's show, but I do want to comment on the AMAZING Hard Rain they played on Saturday. It was an excellent dirgish approach that was totally captivating. That song has often bored me, but not this version.
I'm also really starting to like "She Says."
And finally, after 2 years off, I couldn't be more pleased with my return to seeing GD music played live. Long live the Dog!
Eric, Riverdale, MD
It was likely Bob Weir's dream all along to be doing what he's doing now--the central force in a rock ensemble with worshipping fans who react with predictable glee to specific songs and moments.
Weir always seemed to want that in his years with the Grateful Dead, but the role belonged to the late Jerry Garcia. Subsequent incarnations of the Dead did well enough, but were somewhat rudderless without Jerry's unassuming leadership.
Now Weir has created a band that provides him with the responsibility, the fan adulation, and the ensemble support to continue the jamming tradition spawned by the Grateful Dead.
That much was evident at Monday night's show at the ornate Warner Theater in Washington. An early start, almost certainly due to theater-union regulations, meant the usual preparedness of both the band and fans may have been a little off. The opening blues jam into "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," while a spirited tribute to the darker version of Pigpen and the Grateful Dead, came across as slightly disjointed. But it served as a warm-up to the crowd-pleasing "Help On The Way > Slipknot" that followed, with Weir's voice sounding a bit ragged and his phrasing deliberately different from how Garcia sang. "Slipknot" morphed into "Feel Like A Stranger," which inspired further jam-dancing in the good-natured crowd, and then a sweet version of Dylan's "She Belongs to Me," though Weir's vocals (perhaps hampered by a touch of laryngitis?) lacked the emphasis to highlight the strength of the lyrics.
A reggae-grooved "Crazy Fingers" started a new jam that went to Weir's "Lucky Enough," which had a rhythm similar to "All Along the Watchtower" but not the same strength in lyrics, and then an exuberant "Tennessee Jed" that had the crowd belting out the chorus (and most of the verses) in unison. Lead guitarist Mark Karan built the jam nicely, though it veered into a bit of uncertainty in the final measures before returning for the final chorus. An energetic "Wrong Way Feelin," which sounded a bit thin after "Tennessee Jed," made its way into a real surprise and one of the best songs of the show, the trippy "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles. Karan provided a steady and powerful lead to a tight rendition that achieved a different sound while remaining perfectly suited to the show. That ended the first set nicely.
Weir came out with his glasses on and acoustic guitar in hand for the second set, opened with a sweet-sounding but undisciplined "Pretty Peggy-O." Forgotten lyrics and a couple of tempo shifts ruined the number, but the band recovered very nicely with a tight and powerful "The Winners," with Karan again providing a driving lead and bass player Robin Sylvester also excelling.
Keller Williams (apologies for not knowing his pedigree) joined the stage, standing to Weir's left and sharing vocals on "The Weight," with Weir directing the chorus harmonies with hand signals to his bandmates and the crowd. Weir then put down the acoustic and launched into a strong "He's Gone" that continued the crowd sing-along. The band played it tight and powerful, and the ending gospel-style refrain echoed nicely. With some real flair, the band broke crisply into "Eyes of the World," and Sylvester and his bass really shined. He began with exorbitant bass runs and remained strong throughout, particularly in the instrumental section (is that "Stronger than Dirt?") after the final chorus. The space (called stuff in the setlist) followed and was relatively brief, again most likely due to a deadline for ending the show. Weir came back and put on a slide for a good attempt at "Standing on the Moon," though he seemed a bit more serious about it than Karan and other bandmates. Again, his ragged vocals were unable to truly capture the power of the lyrics, but the advantage of being Bob Weir is that everyone knows the lyrics anyway and is probably singing along.
It was about 10:45 and the show was clearly going to end at 11, so there was one more number and an encore to be played. At this point, in my opinion, what had been a very good show turned a bit disappointing. Weir ended with "Corrina," a decent number but really not a show-stopper, truth be told. It was a good rendition, relatively tight, but the style and structure of the song just doesn't create the desired dynamic for the final song of the 2nd set. A very brief break and the band came back to return to "Slipknot" en route to "Franklin's Tower," which delighted the crowd even though the version was somewhat perfunctory (again, the clock was ticking).
All in all, a good show with some great moments, but also some lapses and questions about Weir's voice. It could have been a great show with a better ending, such as closing the second set with "Franklin's Tower" and then a rocking encore.
It was interesting to me that of the Grateful Dead songs played, only one was a standard Weir number from the old days - "Feel Like a Stranger." All the others were Garcia songs except the opening "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," which was Pigpen's terrain. It made me think that Weir, with the bushy mustache and less bushy beard, has assumed a kind of half-Jerry, half-Bobby persona at this stage in his career. There's nothing wrong with that, though he is unable to carry off the vocals with anywhere near the emotion and pitch that Jerry provided for most of his years.
What matters is that it's his band - he gives the cues, sets the pace, sings the songs, and is the central force throughout. Last night, that resulted in some good energetic ensemble jamming that at times was reminiscent of the power of the Grateful Dead. Those moments were mostly, but not always, during traditional Grateful Dead numbers, and the real challenge is to continue building the band to play everything with that dynamic. They're pretty close, but not there yet.
Tom, Washington DC
Great venue, friendly crowd, a nice spring day in D.C.--ripe for a "Here Comes Sunshine" opener
Before the show, the uncanny Bob "Mr. 1974" Murphy felt an "Eyes of the World" in the wind and got it. Kenny Brooks gave his soprano sax solo in this tune everything he had. Well done, lad.
For imaginative intensity, my favorites were "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Stuff." Mr. Sylvester is one happening bass player and is always a pleasure to see/hear.
"The Weight," augmented by the reggae licks of guest Keller Williams, was unusually weighty, as was "Standing on the Moon," with respect to emotional content.
And Corrina was righteously done. I love Bobby's heavy right hand--my second favorite to John Lee Hooker's. I'll always see this band when I can, and perhaps you should, too.
Last comment: I think we were all hoping for Franklin's after the Help > Slip, and Bobby was cool to make us wait for it and finally deliver. What a classy guy!
Rich McManus, Chevy Chase, MD
Great Show. This band is getting better and better. All band members contribute and it shows.... Couldn't hear keyboards and sax as well as last year at the Frederick show. Bob Weir sings every song and still sounds good! You can tell the band is having a good time and is taking their music seriously. My 17 year old heavy metal loving son attended and said they were "pretty good." Believe me, that is a compliment!! He also said the band looked like they were working hard on stage playing. Bass player sounds real good this year. Hope these guys continue playing!!
Rich Chamberlain, Harpers Ferry, WV