My identical twin brother and I made are way into Manhattan after a long and loud train ride on the F from Brooklyn. With some time to spare, we popped in to Mustang Harry's for a few beers. We've seen many Dead shows together and have seen Phil several times together, so this was bound to be a great night--and it was. Not only did we have fun together, but we got to party like old times with a great band, some great fans, and Bob Weir---a former member of the greatest band in the history of Music. Music > Maggie's to open was so well-played. Eyes to close the set was fresh as can be and uplifting. The band played very well the entire time and I really like the sound. It's new, it's fresh, it's great to noodle around to and has some great Dead themes... but isnt the Dead, and most of all, the music is played from the heart. Many people miss this aspect of music--soul. Bobby is playing because he loves it. He cares. And we are there because we all miss the Dead, the scene, and Jerry---not to mention the fact that Bob's band plays wonderful music. LL Rain really took the cake. "Truly beautiful," to quote my brother. West LA and Dear Prudence, She Belongs to Me... I love those songs and they were executed so originally. The highlight was the rousing rendition of US Blues with the mini reprise just when you thought they were done.... One more time now, "Summertime done, come and gone my oh my!" One comment I have is that too many people compare Phil to Bobby. That's not right. They are both woven from the same cloth, but have different styles Thanks Ratdog for a great time. Peace
Sean, Guilford, CT
Leaving Reggie home this time, Connie and I left for the city in the late afternoon. As is our routine when we head into Manhattan, we parked on the NJ side of the Lincoln Tunnel in the north Bergen park and ride, and rode the bus to Port Authority. We then walked the 6 blocks down 8th ave. to a Starbuck's Coffee on 35th and 8th. We sat at the window with our coffee watching the people pass by on the street. With our trained eye, we couldn't help noticing the Ratdoggies among the people on the always-crowded sidewalks of New York who, unlike elsewhere, seemed to blend right in with the rest of the population. When we arrived at the front of the Manhattan Center, a line was beginning to form and, as this was a general admission show, we chose to get right in line. Great view of the Empire State Building and the traffic on the street from here. A typical New York Dead crowd... kids from the burbs, the always present old-timers, and of course the out-of-towners all dressed in timeless Dead Head style. Even though Reggie was home tonight there were plenty of other dogs parading up and down the sidewalk. There was a great number of stragglers on the sidewalk in search of that "one extra." From the looks of things, it wasn't going to be an easy find tonite. The crowd wasn't necessarily friendly at this point but were generally polite and orderly. The NYPD on the sidewalk seemed more friendly then usual. I noticed a couple of officers posing for pictures with some of the Dead Heads, big smiles on their faces. Couldn't help thinking about the 6 month anniversary of the tragedies coming up... I definitely felt there would be some kind of statement made in the course of the sets to come.
They let us in by 7:00pm. We had tickets that only let us in the balcony section so we headed straight up and claimed a pair of seats in the front of the lower loge and waited for the show.
I wouldn't call this opener a bass solo really.... Jay and Wasserman came out first and were quickly joined by the rest of the band. They jammed only briefly, going right into "Music Never Stopped." Believe it or not I called this from the opening notes but the guys behind called it "Shakedown" and for a moment I was actually fooled... it actually was a "Shakedown" tease. I suppose in retrospect one might say "Music" was a political statement in itself albeit less then obvious. In any case, the boys were on the stage and all was right with the world... or at least for now all was right on 34th street... and everybody's dancin'. They segue with Bob on slide into the twangyest country sounding version of "Maggies Farm." Chimenti plays a nice little solo on the beginning section, again Bobby coming in with the rest of the rhythm section the way he always does. Ratdog truly does justice to the Bob Dylan lyric on "Maggies Farm" with a rousing rendition of this great American folk song. Bob Weir with the best slide notes here Mark Karan just playing little rockin' chords backing him up, the band really playing really tight as an ensemble. At this point I can't help noticing the tour chic I called Loose Lucy on Sunday in Asbury dancing along the rail at the front of the balcony. The audience is definitely up and dancing, the energy level extreme. Bob Weir, always the hounddog, goes into an awesome rendition of "Easy Answers." Excellent solo by Mark Karan then Kenny Brooks comes in with a BIG solo then back to Karan only briefly, then I guess Wier led into the change on rhythm.... Real long change is the only way to describe it--Mark Karan building tension, Brooks coming in finally releasing by the end of the change, then SLAMMIN' back into the lyric... incredible!! "Easy Answers" was off the scale as far as I'm concerned!!! Then they break into "She Belongs to Me" and again I am beyond words. Ratdog just... I don't know... sooooooo sweet on this number. Mark Karan played a nice country-sounding lead here then piano solo (not sure who was playing piano in a lot of parts Chimenti or Dred Scott?). "... She can take the dark right out of the night time...." Great ending on this number, Bob Weir just over the top!! They go like slammin' wham, wham, right into "Playing in the Band." At this point I begin to notice Ratdog has an elaborate lighting setup tonight... someone running it had a vague idea of the songs and what was needed though still not anything totally synched in or anything. Anyway they play the "Playin" jam and quickly head into "October Queen." Here again regardless of the change in order from Sunday, with the "Deep End" and "Even So" to come, these songs take on the same life of their own I described from the Asbury show. Kenny Brooks took a MONUMENTAL solo on "Even So" and I thought they came out sounding a lot like Traffic here. Kenny Brooks beyond belief tonight!! Then back into the ending on "Music Never Stopped." They closed the first set with "Eyes of the World." This song highlights Bob's rhythm playing but again Kenny Brooks comes through with the solo for the ages on "Eyes" then a solo by Rob toward the end of the second break.
Packed is the only way to describe the Hammerstein… but we all know about that.... Right? We stayed at our seats for the intermission and the aforementioned energy level in the room was palatable to say the least. The audience is known to be special in New York; still there is definitely something special tonight. I don't see how it's possible but tonight's show is yet again exceptional.
Bob and Rob open the second set acoustic w/Jay on drums going into "Victim or the Crime." I know I have commented in the past on how much I enjoy the acoustic "Victim" but this is definitely the best version I've heard to date. Wasserman playing a mind boggling solo, actually strumming the bass, that couldn't help recalling the great Jack Cassady's wailing solos from the past in New York. Wasserman, after strumming the bass, actually pulls out that bow on the end of the solo as if the strumming wasn't enough. Then it's "Friend of the Devil" with a great singalong by the audience. Excellent acoustic lead by Mark Karan on this number actually LEADING through the change (finally)!! Then it's like, what can you say, "Looks Like Rain" and once again I am broken down in tears... speechless. I guess we really are lucky tonight. Mark Karan back on electric with a great solo on LLR. "West LA Fadeaway" is up next. The band is really hot by now and plays a smokin' version of this tried and true classic. This one goes out to you Javier!! ("... meet a west LA girl/already know what I need to know....") Bob picks up the tambourine and they play the opening notes of "Iko Iko" and you know the house is back up and rockin' again. They played "Ashes n Glass" next and I suppose this again represented a political statement of sorts. Just a great "Ashes"--first in New York I believe (technically Jones Beach is in Wantagh). This leads into the bass solo part w/DJ Logic. I thought this part was very good. We could really see how DJ actually fits in with these guys and I was really glad they didn't cut it too short either. Weir and the rest come back out and they play a great "space" with DJ. So they come out of the space with what I thought was a tease of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" that ends up being "Dear Prudence." Second time this week for "Dear Prudence" and second time in the Hammerstein... and I'm not complaining either. The night is just so unbelievably classic at this point that they could play just about anything and it would go over. Not saying "Dear Prudence" was anything but stellar by any means. As expected they finish with "One More Saturday Night"... everybody got "right"... hea, just another Saturday night... right? POURING ovation... the band comes back with "U.S. Blues" and once again the "statement" is made but this time not so subtle as they had someone march back and forth across the stage behind the drums waving a rather large American flag.
We exited quickly and made a brisk walk through some pretty stiff wind tunneling down 8th ave back to the bus station.
I want to thank Allison and Jon Rabhan for getting the setlist straight. I was trying to scoop you both by putting out the list on the Ratdog Conference first so I guess that's what I get for putting out the information too quickly before I had had a chance to edit it.
In closing I wanted to comment that I believe this show was a true milestone. This was the kind of show that back in the day used to put NYC on the map when it came to rock concerts. With these kinds of performances, Ratdog better watch out because they just might become successful. It has been said "... if you can make it there/ you can make it anywhere...."
Reggie, Freehold, NJ