We got to the Madison at 7:10 and walked around looking for a good seat, all tickets being General Admission. The Dead came of age playing in small joints like this; the dumpy ballrooms, bowling alleys and converted skating rinks of San Francisco. The worn out theatres like the Fillmore, prior to hitting it big in the stadiums and large arenas. Bob Weir must have felt a twinge of nostalgia in Peoria in the cold, rain and snow of this night in February 2002.
We couldn't help but notice the dilapidated condition of the theatre and remarked how sad it was especially in comparison to the beautifully restored Orpheum in Galesburg, IL where we are accustomed to attending concerts and shows. Susan remarked that someone needs to put about $500,000 into fixing up this place...or as I added, tearing it down.
Wandering to the area in front of the stage where the first twenty or so rows of seats have been removed we decided to stand up front for at least a couple of songs. The crowd appeared to be thin and we figured we could find a seat later. We planted ourselves in the "second row" of early arriving Dead Heads, just off the right of center stage. By the time the show started the place was jammed and we "had" to stand in front of the stage all night, which turned out to be a good move.
The band was cookin', the sound was great; not too loud and crystal clear. Even so close to the band. Bob Weir the leader of the group, principle vocalist and member of the Dead was only about 15 feet away from us on the stage. As a life long Dead Head (at least since 1971) it was a treat for me to stand this close. Susan was attending her first show by the Dead or any member thereof and was equally impressed with the view and sound, although she got a little tired from standing for four hours!
The crowd was a mixed lot of young and old. If the place had blown up, it would have wiped out three generations of hippies within a hundred mile radius! The smell of Pot in the air was prevalent. Susan has never been around this type of environment and was a bit surprised that the cops didn't come in. I told her that if anyone handed her a joint to just pass it on to me! I also advised her not to drink from anyone else's kool-aid.
Ratdog performed a variety of material from the Dead playlist; "Jack Straw", "Victim or the Crime", "Mexicali Blues", a great rockin' version of "Sugar Magnolia" (one of the best I have seen) and spiced the show with the tunes, and subsequent recurring themes of, "Dark Star", "Playin' In The Band" and "Uncle John's Band" throughout the first and into the second sets.
They also shined on four tunes created for the Ratdog band "Lucky Enough", "Even So", "October Queen" and "The Deep End". These and other Ratdog songs are establishing a following among Dead Heads and several of them will become known as classics to the faithful.
As well as the above numbers, Weir sprinkled in two Dylan poems, "Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". Bobby, the Dead and now Ratdog have always done Dylan's songs better than anyone except for Dylan himself. Tuesday night proved no exception.
Bob's voice was strong throughout the whole show and he only forgot the words to a couple of songs (something he is affectionately known for among Dead Heads). The audience cheerfully forgave him for his lapses of memory and assisted his singing during several numbers with a choirlike approach on numerous songs, particularly the better known of the Grateful Dead tunes.
For historical purposes the band included "Wang Dang Doodle", the Willie Dixon blues covered by the Dead many times, and Peggy Lee's "Fever", done in a slow jazzy style which fit nicely with the hazy smoke hanging over the theatre.
For an encore they played "Brokedown Palace" as if to both eulogize the formerly respledent and now worn out Madison, at the same time sending a reverant belated Valentine love ode to the Central Illinois audience.
The show was a great mix of jazzy jams, hot rockers and familiar favorites for Dead Heads and Ratdog loyalists. A cornucopia of musical treats served up by one of the great touring band of artists alive today. Catch Ratdog whenever you can.
You won't be disappointed.
Dan G, Galesburg, IL