From the start of the evening, one could tell that this would not be a normal Ratdog night. As a young veteran Ratdog fan, I have seen numerous shows and listened to scores of discs. Each show has its own musical endeavors, woven out of the musical character of the band. This night was the same.
The venue was a very small showroom in one of the ugliest, non-flashy casinos I have ever seen. Being to Atlantic City before, I would much rather go there than here. The rows of chirping slot machines were filled with clandestine, depressed old people and working men trying to strike the big one. Walking the halls of the low end casino, one could not avoid feeling the blues. And that is exactly what Ratdog gave the audience--a strong set of blues inspired rock.
The set did not include songs that one might expect at a casino venue. No Loser, Winners, or even rare Heaven Help the Fool. Instead the audience was treated to a very thick Sailor > Saint opener that highlighted the up and down nature of casino gambling. The two songs flowed flawlessly through the up and down emotions, then settled into a deep, bluesy Wang Dang Doodle. At times very fast and powerful, it was also deep, with Rob's bass bleeding out notes that permeated the showroom. An unenlightened Tennessee Jed brought us into the acoustic section, which gave to us a rollicking Festival, a rousing Artificial Flowers, then back to the full, reverent blues repretoire of Ratdog. Eternity was slow and smoky, with a nasty Bass breakdown in the middle. Rooster featured one of the finest example of Bob's ability with the slide guitar. This, coupled with the poignant lyrics, brought memories of inner city blues bars full of thick smoke and music.
From this the band went into an as moving as possible Odessa, which was upbeat compared to the prior songs. After various hints at a return to Sailor, the chords to West L.A. Fadeaway came out, bringing the band back to the thick bass-laden endeavors of earlier. Rob's bass was strong, sending nearly violent notes throughout the showroom. Perhaps the strongest version of this song this reviewer has heard featured Bobby's strongest lyrics of the night. His emotion was nearly overpowering. The only downside, as was the case for the entire show, was the desperatly low levels of DJ Logic in the mix. What he can bring to a song of this caliber is nearly unmeasureable and unfortunately he was quiet throughout.
It was apparent the set break would not come when This Time Forever > Shade of Grey was played. Both versions were particularly strong, a good highlight of non-Dead Ratdog material. More hints of Saint came, then the band went into a Bucket, which got the crowd going more than anytime in the show. This song was a rocker that was played very well with lots of emotion. Another Saint tese led us to the Solos, or the Breakdown. Logic was the loudest and strongest he was all night. Coupled with Rob's "Another One Bites the Dust" bass line, this was the best example of the wide variety of abilities present in the current band lineup.
Out of the Solos/Breakdown came a piano solo that quickly turned into a hot Two Djinn > Corrina--as good as this fan has ever heard were these versions--upbeat and good examples of the intesity Bob can bring at any time. The upbeat nature was unlike any the show had shown yet, save for Bucket. Then they left.
They came back for a clean Touch, which was somewhat a downer, although it had the best Karan guitar licks of the night. It was the same encore played October 5 in Geneva, right down I-90. One could think of how much more powerful So Many Roads or Brokedown Palace might have been. It was then over, leaving us, after failed attempts to get backstage, to shuffle out past the desparate gamblers to our cars and home, waiting with smiles on our faces for NYC and Scranton this weekend.
Of final note, heard after the concert was some negative quips of the show. This was not the true case. The show showcased the depth of Ratdog's repetoire. At a somber venue, they played songs that matched the night. Because of this, this show will be remembered distinctly. It was a night Ratdog played a blues-style show that matched the atmosphere to a tee. For this, I thank Bobby and the boys.
Mick McGinnis, Fayetteville, NY
Hey well here it is the 7th of March, I've had a couple days to think about this so I guess we'll start at the beginning. My Girlfriend and I arrived at the casino/hotel early on tuesday, we had a room, and we wanted to get checked in and settled well before the majority of the crowd arrived. After check in and on the way up to the room, I glanced over the balcony and low and behold it was Mark and Rob, I quickly dropped my belongings for a quick chance to say "hello." With BIG grins they both happily shook my hand, I said my "hello" and back upstairs I went. Just as the elavator opens, there's Jeff with a quick hello. I remember that my tickets are in my pocket and with a quick brainstorm, I whip em out and ask for a signing. Without hesitation, he signs them both. And I bust out with "Gonna be a kick ass show tonight eh?" And he responds "oh, I'm hoping so!" Ok back to the room, kick it in the hot tub for a bit, and then off to poke around. We need smokes and head straight to the smoke shop, and who's buying a pack of (I think they were) Camel non-filters? Shit, it's BOBBY. I say "hey Bob, hows it going?" and with a smile he says "not bad and yourself?" I respond with "VERY GOOD, Thanks!" and without hesitation I leave him be. 4 more hours show time, head up to room for a little R&R. Skip all the room nonsense, and here we are in line to get in. With front row dead center tickets and a little inside knowledge that the boys were happy, I knew this show would be one show to remember. OPENING JAM was spacey and then out of nowhere it glides right into SAILOR>SAINT. With Mark and Kenny exchanging riffs and Jeff adding some flavor, this show was off in the right direction. The SAINT got the people up and band was hot. With a flawless transition we're into a WANG DANG... smoking. Mark tore up the solos feeding off of "us," the audience, and Bob. Wang Dang had us heading in the right direction, and with another near flawless transition out came TENNESSSEE JED. The song built and built and built, and we recived some of Mark's best work here and he blew us straight back to Tennessee. Now with the acoustic portion, FESTIVAL and ARTIFICAL FLOWERS were not what I was suspecting, but I welcomed them with open arms, and it just reinforces my point: I'd go see Bob and Rob acoustic anytime. Wish they'd put something together while the other guys do their respective things with their other projects. ETERNITY got deep, with Kenny leading the charge here with deep soulful like horns into a far better then average ROOSTER. ODESSA--Bob on slide--was just another example of how dimensional this band has become. With a little goofing around we were all over the place with a Saint-inspired bass-type jam that ended up getting Jay away from his kit and up front and center shaking a maraca or whatever it was, and making strange sounds and popping balloons (WHAT FUN!). WEST LA was smoking from the onset and with all the fun of balloons the crowd was singing along louder it seemed on this one then previous songs. TTF>SHADE OF GREY I cant say either way; I really had to pee and my friend had to flip his disk so we took this chance as the crowd seemed to ease up to make a break and by the time we got back in it was "firing" HELL IN A BUCKET. The crowd was up and dancing and it was tough to get back to our seats. Just as we got there it was a by far the most amazing bass/dj solo/breakdown whatever you want to call it jam. LOGIC was in the house on this, and I was now on a different plane then i had been previously. So was the band as they passed around a phat joint and got slanty eyed with us! :) MISSION IN THE RAIN was highly comparable to the astonishing 4-3-01 version. We were twirling and getting all fuzzy while the band led us through this claasic. TWO DJINN>CORRINA was a perfect closer to this amzing 2 hour 45 minute single set. As the crowd roared its affection towards the band yelling one more, out they came for a TOUCH OF GREY. Mark again lit up the SOLOS and BOB guided us and he slowly brought us down from the peak we had all hit. In closing all I can say if is you havent see the "DOG" get out the bone and head to a show. They'll latch on and they wont let go!
Jon, Rome, NY