Great show... one of the best RD shows I've seen. They just keep getting better and better. We walked in during the jam, thought it was a DJ or the stereo or something, and procured a beer before walking in and seeing hte band drop into Jack Straw, a welcome opener and a well done one at that. They drizzled right into a beautiful Dark Star--nice and long and well jammed. Bobby's band really plays the sung melody portion of this song instrumentally in a way I don't recall the Dead doing. It's pretty. And they had some swinging improv sections too. Bobby dedicated Easy to Slip to Lowell George ("this is for Lowell"). I love that song and enjoyed this version. Lazy Lightning > Supplication... yea! In my 35 Dead shows I never saw the band do this one--just one teast at Saratoga in '85--so I was pumped for this pairing and they really kicked its ass. The band must have rehearsed this one long and hard; I've heard the botch MUCH easier songs. They really nailed it and I was fully on board at this point... five great songs with lots of free range rocking to start the night. The rest of the set was good fun but nothing too heavy or out there. They did the same intro/outro that the Stones did on their old version of All Over Now; that was a nice touch.
Set two kicked off with two of my favorite acoustic Bob numbers, both extremely well delivered with the band trickling back out one member at a time as they played. The looseness of the opening segment of set one returned with the Love Supreme jam into Playin. They were really into it and so was the crowd. We got the RatDog original trio from here, and I like those songs despite not knowing them as well as I could. I mostly hear them at shows rather than on the stereo, so there's always some surprises in there for me, which I like. This trio of songs seems to show up at most of my Ratdog visits. Wasserman and Jay put together a nice little duo vamp, but it was short as I recall. Wharf Rat is one of my all time favorite Jerry songs and I was charmed to hear Bobby sing it, and quite well at that. Jay's becoming a reliable harmony vocalist. Bob could use a little more support in that area band-wide. They had their moments, but some of the group singing was a little motley across the night. Instrumentally, they all shine, but some singing practice would really bring things up to an even higher level. But any time you have the drummer singing a high harmony on a song like Wharf Rat, that's okay with me! The return into Dark Star was smooth and sweet and kept the trippy vibe high for this show overall. The piano solo was a welcome diversion but nothing too amazing. It was fun watching the band watching Jeff work through his solo and wrap it up. They looked ready for him to end it and careen into the next group effort several times but he took a few extra rounds, much to Bobby's apparent amusement. It was a nice moment, even if it wasn't that mind expanding on a musical level. Two Djinn is another one I just don't know that well, so it's often like a new song for me, but I enjoyed this one fully and felt like the band was in a great groove considering how long they'd been playing. And I'm a fan of Corrina, so I had fun singing along with a big version to close the set. This one seems to divide the crowd a bit, but Bobby's got a lot of fans at these Ratdog shows, and I know the Corrina lovers prevailed this night, despite a few detractors.
I thought we'd get Sugar Magnolia for the encore; I swore I heard Karan play a little piece of it during tuen up, but the U.S. Blues was a fun alternative. Bob played some nice lead-ish slide that was pretty ripping. And the long haired bearded guy running around with the flag was grin-inducing. It seemed a little hokey a couple of times, but it was pretty cool overall. The Dead never hit the rah-rah U.S. patriotic thing too hard, so this seemed like a bit of a diversion, but it was all in good fun so no harm done. After the band took their bows, Jay yelled into the mic, "And don't forget to smoke that weed." Pretty funny. Not sure why he feels he has to remind people of that, especially after the show, but whatever, the guy rocks on drums and gives his all, so he can say whatever he wants as far as I'm concerned.
I took a friend to this one with me--his first Ratdog show (no Dead shows either... only one Phil and Friends). He was suitably impressed and plans to come again and bring his brother. I'll be there too. See ya next time.
Scott Judd, Chicago, IL