This show kicked ass! The theater was very reminiscent of old theaters in the northeast (Beacon, Capital Theater, etc). They came out with their routine jam and ripped into Truckin. Highlights in the first set: Book of Rules which seemed to have a funky, reggae sound to it. It was great to hear that tune. The Greatest Story Ever Told rocked and then they took that right into a very mellow Althea. The Around and Around rocked the house down.
The second set was just as hot and featured a great Sugaree. Kenny was really giving it his all on his solo. It seemed like he was having some problems with has sax earlier in the night. The Throwin Stones was one of the best I have ever witnessed. Seeing both Bobby and Mark at the end of the stage right in front of the audience wailing away on their guitars with huge smiles on their faces was great to see! It was hard to figure out who was loving it more, those two or the packed house. Mark has really taken over and his leads are amazing. I don't ever remember Jerry stepping out to the end of the stage and giving it his all alongside Bobby. These guys play with passion! Mark's solo on Mississippi Half Step was great. The Touch of Grey encore was a great ender to a very rocking show.
All in all, I was more than impressed with their performance. If you have not seen this band in a while, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
John Dahr, Every Town, USA
Dazed and confused but here's a review...
We arrived in Jacksonville around 5ish to find the downtown people vacating and conveniently leaving us with practically front door parking. Nice and clean town in the downtown area with a heady lot right across the street from the venue. It took a little while for it to fill up, but it did eventually, with the assistance of the parking lady in a motorized wheelchair. She was most definitely in charge. Nice weather was upon us creating a great mood in everyone., Okay - fast forward 2hrs or so....
We walk into the venue. Greeted with smiles everywhere. Staff on hand was very pleasant. No search, no pat down... just "Welcome to the Florida Theatre. Have a nice show." When we went to find our seats, the usher said let me see where you're sitting, then proceeded to tell us it would be his pleasure to show us to our seats. Hospitality at its finest. Fast forward again 45 minutes or so and the place was filling up. Even though its was reserved the pit area became a free-for-all.
I think it was about 8:15 when the band came on and started this wild evening with an awesome Truckin opener which somehow morphed into Playing... a rather large Playing with solid jamming. Very nice. Big Boss Man rolled out and it was evident who was in charge. A solid Book of Rules brought all the common folk like you and me together and then out of nowhere a fast paced Odessa busted loose. This seemed apropos for the moment due to whistling, clapping, harmonica guy Dave firing off his own noise the whole time. Couldn't get that guy to shut up for anything but oh well.... It was a Tuesday so why not.... Tuesday Blues. Broken hearts, dollar a pound - Bob was rockin' my face around. Then Bam! Greatest Story hit and the place was coming unglued. Althea was strong--no missed lines and awesome solos. When Around and Around hit I was sure it was a first time played but found out it had been done twice before.... Nonetheless it smoked with Bobby screaming at some points. It could have just about ended there and I would have felt I got my money's worth for the evening, but wait there is a second set???
The notes to Mexicali twanged in my ear and made me smile.... Everybody polka! Jack-a-Roe was next, very sweet. A few little hangups on lyrics but come on, this is Bobby we're talking about and he sure brought it otherwise all night. Masterpiece was flawless. Half-Step was graced by some incredible soloing by Mark and an incredible ending that morphed somehow back into Playing. Where the hell that Supplication came from I don't know, but it was what I really needed. I love this song and the notes to it. Nice jam back into Playing. A solid stuff saw Bobby come out and take over into one of the best Sugarees ever for me. Mark's solo... wow! Kenny's solo WOW ~ absolute rocking. Throwing Stones.... I just cant tell ya, you had to be there, but unbelievable. Song ends, crowd goes insane.
Encore: The Chief can still rock your face off even with a Touch of Grey.... This night he was the silver lining and made it happen. For me this show was a 10. It will be tough to beat it in the next three shows but that's okay because this was one for the books, IMHO. Thanks Ratdog!
Patrick In Tally, Tallahassee, FL
This was a brilliant show, an architectural masterpiece, a barely restrained monster bursting with mature energy, wisdom, and nuance. At first Althea felt like it was being dragged along in a little red wagon, but even that was illuminated by a brand new depth of pathos by the third verse. Any thought that Bob should leave certain Garcia songs along was fissured forever by the best Sugaree I've heard in 36 years. Loved Around & Around and surprised to find out this was only the third time they'd done it, and Rat's Tuesday Blues is a new classic.
Most of all, it was so great to see a typically beautiful crowd of Deadheads waiting outside the Florida Theatre and to see everyone on their feet the whole time. Security cowered in the corners. Thanks Ratdog for coming to Jacksonville!
Michael Fixel, Jacksonville, FL
Weir hit the stage at 8:15 playing, and there was no dead air til the set break at 9, nor between 9:30 and 11:30. He looks healthy and comfortable as bandleader, though the Bobbysattva beard is a challenge to behold; he's cueing the changes with hand signals and pushing the segues forward from song to song. His tone is fuller, and his slide work is much smoother and well-intonated. Mark Karan is more assured at balancing his own sound with the familiar tones and modes that Garcia stamped on our heart. On Greatest Story his lead cooked with the sound of 1972, a wah wah inflected bumblebee tone that had the lobby abuzz at the break. And the dynamic build he played in Sugaree raised the roof. Jeff Chimenti is all business, locked onto the current and coloring the sound with Mu-Tron filtered Rhodes tones and pure Steinway bone tone. The bassist and drummer are capable and dynamic, showcased in "Stuff" after Weir wandered offstage, with a Gunga Din Bitches Brou-ha-ha space groove with Chimenti.
Everyone can sing, and the refrain across the Rio Grand-i-o aas as sweet as could be. Saxophonist Kenny Brooks was an enigma, doubling lines or simply inaudible most of the night and lurching about, preoccupied with his beer and his mouthpiece and his microphone, until Weir brought the band down to a simmer on Sugaree just after Mark Karan had built up a truly worthy crescendo/diminuendo; and Weir basically stared at Brooks til he applied himself to the horn. Brooks hunched over and began to blatt and rock and splatt, and twist the mouthpiece, and rock and howl and blare then he squonked and eeyonked and brat-a-tatted and huffed and puffed and wailed, rocking up and down, he eventually blew the house down with a solo that bridged Ornette and Junior Walker, a compelling solo that explained why he's around and why Weir shamed him into the solo.
And in our world the lyrics of Throwing Stones still resonate more and more, these songs, it turns out, are still alive, and we can again assume our favorite position, where we help the music play the band.
Your longwinded correspondent,
Hambone Sparklewell, Jacksonville, FL
Not exactly thirty years since my first show, but close. Wow, just freaking amazing. Not only one of the loudest, purest sounding shows I've heard, absolutely one of the best. Bob and the rest of the band were on fire. It didn't take long into Truckin for the power cords to begin and just slam you like a freakin freight train, WHAM, and then again and again. Playin seemed to be stuck in reverse, excellent. Book of Rules with an excellent Ratdog reggae riff, excellent a capella from the guys. Did I mention that they get better every freakin time? Althea was just gorgeous, loved it. Extremely pretty Mexicali blues; of course things will be better when i paint my masterpiece. Sticky, stinky Mississippi Half-Steppin. Stuff--WTF is stuff, but i like it!! Very kinky Sugaree, just don't tell them you know my name. Haven't heard as good a Throwing Stones since the 80s, and finally, finishing with just a little, just a bit of Touch of Grey. wow, just wow. Thank you Bobby, thank you Ratdog. Please come again.
Charles MacLaughlin, Macclenney, FL