RatDog rolled into Philly amidst the swirl of anticipation of the upcoming Other Ones shows at the First Union Arena in November. Those will definitely be events to remember, but I love RatDog; to me, they are like the "hometown team" in a way. This was their fourth appearance in the Philadelphia area in 2002, and each show seemed to build in power over the course of the four appearances. Each show was presented in a different manner and all are must-have recordings. After 7/30 Wilmington, a show that I felt was the best RatDog show I've seen since my first on 7/29/96 at Cal Expo, I felt their performance in Alpine a few days later matched it in intensity only during the second half of the set. I didn't know if they could equal that Wilmington performace on this night, but I couldn't wait to find out!
The band opened the show with their typical "warm-up jam," and Bob's acoustic didn't work right on this night, so I got my first "acoustic-less" RatDog show ever. They kind of telegraphed the Stranger opener, but it was fantastic nonetheless. Jeff's swirling keyboard effects during the jam were very trippy and the band was in full swing right off the bat for the Philly faithful. They roared right into Minglewood with a classy sharpness that is the mark of a great band all on the same page. Great Minglewood, elegant She Belongs To Me, and then the first break in the action. What a tight start!! The band eased into a full band arrangement on Artificial Flowers, a song that I'm very partial to, and it was fantastic with a jaw-dropping solo from Karan. My girlfriend Jennie and I got a big kick out of this one! West LA was as sharply performed as Wilmington's version, but brought the energy down nonetheless. The band followed with a version of She Says (another personal fave; Bobby, put this on your next record please!!) that was superior to the one RatDog played on March 8th in this same building, and it segued unexpectedly and very powerfully into a rippin' Liberty! Boy was this an awesome moment. A killer BEWomen followed which in turn segued into one the big highlights of the evening--Eyes Of The World. This was a first for my Jennie and my brother, which is amazing because he's like my show partner--you know his Robin to my Batman--but this was a first for him. And they absolutely LOVED it!!
The band came back after that incredible first set with amazing renditions of BTWind and Half-Step, a fave of Jennie's, then they played the best Even So I've heard, but Even So just saps the energy from a set, and I think Bob needs to stick this one in the first and leave it there or drop it completely. It just does nothing for a set, and I'll take Easy Answers over this one. That should say alot. Still the performances were top notch through this, October Queen, and The Deep End, before moving into a run of songs that definitely rank up there with RatDog's best performances to date. Estimated Prophet was a monster, the trippy Space after Bass/Drumz was a very welcome addition to this show,and the Terrapin Station Suite drove the crowd into a frenzy as RatDog expertly rendered this "for-the-ages" caliber performance. This show totally stunned me and is definitely on par with the Wilmington show in energy, precision, and song-list. The Other Ones will have alot to live up to when they perform here in November. Long Live RatDog!!!!
Tyler, Philadelphia, PA
The Electric Factory, as usual, was grossly oversold. The closer you got to the stage the worse it was. But even halfway back in the venue you still couldn't move--no dancin' room at all. We had to move way back for most of the second set to move an inch.
First set was good but not great. the Jam > Stranger to open it was AWESOME, a really nicely done Stranger, jammed into a middling Minglewood which didn't do anything for me. This jammed into She Belongs to Me which is always a treat to hear Ratdog play. Artificial Flowers was next, a nice Bobby rarity. It's a tune that you don't hear too much and is often written off, but it's the one that's been in my head ever since the show. This sort of just fizzled out into West LA Fadeaway, which Bub and I heard them soundchecking before the show. Nice funked out West LA; Wasserman was all over this one. Some good trading of solos at the end of it; Kenny WAILED on the sax for this one. This jammed very smoothly into She Says, a great semi-hypnotic Ratdog tune which was nicely done. This just sort of abruptly transformed into Liberty, which was awesome. Ratdog's version is quite different than P+Fs, taking the bluesier approach to it, and it really kicks some ass. I figured that would close off the first set, but nope, they started up Brown-Eyed Women after that, which was pretty good but I've never been a fan of RD's version of this song. And I *definitely* figured that would close the set (it's a common set closer for RD), but, no... after some loose space the opening Emaj7 chord signaled... Eyes, which was awesome. Ratdog's really developed their Eyes quite nicely, and this was a great version. The only problem I have with their Eyes is that they jam out on this one singular line of the riff Jerry played at the end, and it gets repetitive. But this was a GREAT way to end a good set....
Second set... an altogether different beast. It opened up with a Black-Throated Wind. This is the first time I've caught Ratdog doing this tune. Great use of dynamics by Bobby, keeping it very very quiet for the first verse and chorus, and then kicking the whole band into high gear afterwards. Very great tune which jammed nicely into... HALF STEP! Oaaaaaawwww! This was hot! Jammed very hard on Half Step (Bub and I also heard them soundchecking this), with some nice scorching leads from MK on this one. This sort of dissolved into a space and Rob took control and brought Even So out of this. I swear to god the October Queen > Even So combination, or its reverse, has followed me around at Ratdog shows. I've seen them like 16 times now [maybe more?] and seen these two tunes at least 12 or 13 times. No worries on my end--I LOVE them; they're why I fell in love with Ratdog's originals. Very nice, quiet, reflective, majestic Even So, and of course this was followed by the upswing in energy into October Queen. Nice, standard October Queen. Not quite and down 'n' dirty or raunchy as it's been recently, but the highlight of this one was the INTENSE jam that followed the song proper. They've termed this The Deep End often, although I don't know that it's anything more than a jam on the theme of October Queen, but semantics aside this was one intense jam, with some great interplay between Bobby and MK. They were trading lines like crazy. Very nice. And what emerged from all of this but Estimated. Oooooh yeah! AWESOME Estimated--best I've ever heard Bobby play it. This is amongst my favorite tunes that Ratdog does [i.e. the way they do it], just incredible. MK nails Jerry's tone on the solos, and... aaaaaaaaahhhhh.... like an angel, standing in a shaft of light... it penetrates my soul and elates me to the highest level. What an amazing moment it was... ahh.... This was followed by a brief Other One Jam, but this only lasted a half minute or so before Wasserman took over for SOLOS. Wasserman, as usual, blew some freakin' minds with an INCREDIBLE solo break, one of the better solo breaks I've ever seen him take. It was truly something to behold. His range is so awesome he's all over the low end while just tearing up the high end. Awesome stuff. Bobby and the band returned and proceeded to COMPLETELY blow my mind with a Space Jam to end all Space jams. This was the most psychedelic I've ever seen Ratdog get; they were just grabbing at pieces of the ether and bringing them down into the EF. There was an extremely palatable feeling of euphoria in the place; everyone was getting high off of this jam.... This was one of the best things I've ever seen Ratdog do. Just amazing. And this was followed by... oh yeah... Terrapin. And not just Terrapin mind you, but the whole freakin' thing. It ended up being somewhere around a half-hour long. This was a hugely magestic Terrapin... the Lady With a Fan portion was beautiful... of course just wonderful to hear with some great soloing by Kenny. And then... INSPIRAAAAAAATION! MOVE ME BRIGHTLY! aaaaaahhhh... sheer beauty, exuberance... the place goes wild... words don't describe. Every show has its moment. The moment that makes it all worth while. The moment that keeps ya coming back for more. That was it right there. After Terrapin proper was over, the crowd went so fuckin' nuts that Bobby and the band had to jam on an open chord for literally several minutes while people quieted down... after what seemed like an eternity, and what was really several minutes... you hear those SOARING notes... never heard live [except once] from the Dead... only on "Terrapin Station" and it could be nothing else but At A Siding... AWESOME! beautiful, majestic At a Siding was so incredible... I've never heard this played live and it was so awesome to finally hear the FULL complete Terrapin Station. Beautifully ethereal with Bobby's vocals floating over the top... "while you were goooone..." aaahhh... and then the ferocious and powerful jamming of Terrapin Flyer, with some wonderful interplay between MK and Kenny... trading some lines with some truly amazing drumwork from Jay punctuating it all. Just amazing. This blew everyone away it seemed. After a half hour, Terrapin ended and the band left the stage. A happier group of people you'll rarely see than the EF folks after that Terrapin. The band came out for the encore and did a beautiful and understated Brokedown which was a very cathartic moment for myself and many others... just gorgeous and a very appropriate way to end the show. Somehow doing a Johnny B. Goode or something after that Terrapin would've been trite. Brokedown worked nicely.
So... GREAT show. Ratdog is firing on all cylinders, and that Space Jam > Terrapin Station [which totaled like 40 minutes all told] was one of my musical highlights so far this year.
Patrick Donnelly, Wayne, NJ