Happy Birthday Bobby! Thurday night in Philly found Ratdog and birthday boy Bob Weir in great form. The first set started with a Jam into a solid Shakedown. Next a nice Easy Answers and a beautiful Mission in the Rain. A rowdy Loose Lucy continued the show, but then a welcome and amazing Sailor/Saint blew the Electric Factory up! That brought back some serious memories. FOTD ended the set.
Set two began with the crew bringing out a cake for Bob, and the whole place sang "Happy Bithday." An acoustic Me & My Uncle > Candyman > Masterpiece (they nailed it) started things off. Next was Lucky Enough into a stellar Estimated > He's Gone into Jam > Space which could have been considered the show's highlight. Then Ashes and Glass > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider. The China/Rider brought back fellings of many yesterdays. I think Bob was playing like it was his 36th instead of his 56th. All in all it was a rockin' night at the Electric Factory.
Whoops, forgot the funky U.S. Blues encore. Thank you Rat Dog!
Alex F., Philadelphia, PA
Great performance and great song selection. It was, in many ways, a Jerry show, with lots of the slow, sweet ballads: Mission in the Rain, Friend of the Devil, Candyman, and He's Gone. Lots of energy in the second set, particularly Masterpiece, Estimated Prophet and China/Rider. I was really impressed with Ratdog, having not seen them for a few years. Karan was great on guitar, delivering much more of the Jerry sound than we've been seeing from Herring with the Dead. Great wah-wah guitar on the Shakedown opener and Estimated. Bobby was in fine form, too, except for butchering the lyrics in the US Blues encore--but, hey, we'll forgive him on his birthday. Over all, great to see the band in a small setting after dealing with the arenas and the crowds for the Dead tour this summer.
Marc, Maple Glen, PA
Bobby sounds great. It seems as if he got some rest after the Dead tour. His vocals sounded much, much stronger with Ratdog than they did this summer. And the current Ratdog line-up is tighter than ever. Right from the trippy opening Shakedown into a way funky Easy Answers, everyone seemed to be on the same page. A real up-tempo vibe carried throughout the set as they frolicked through Mission in the Rain into Loose Lucy and then treated everyone to a beautiful rendition of a classic Weir favorite, Lost Sailor/Saint of Circumstance. F.O.T.D. wrapped things up nicely before the break.
The 2nd set sounded just as sweet as the 1st, highlighted by a He's Gone that put a huge smile on everyone's face and the best Ashes and Glass I have ever heard, before finally ripping through China/Rider to wrap things up nice and neat. Staying true to the positively jumping mood, the U.S. Blues encore was the perfect ending to a very Happy Birthday for Bob and for a very happy Philadelphia crowd.
Chris, Jenkintown, PA
This was Bobby's big birthday show. The local radio stations played a lot of GD and Bobby stuff during the day, leading up to showtime. I went in pretty early and thought that the show wasn't going to come close to selling out. Boy, I was wrong. By the time Bob and RatDog took the stage, the place was packed and primed for what would turn out to be an outstanding night of music-making by the birthday boy and friends.
Weir had played four excellent shows with RatDog in the Philly area in 2002, but this was the band's one area appearance this fall, and they gave it their all. I was interested in how Robin would fit in on bass, and although he was a bit low in the mix, he was a glove-fit, picking different times throughout the evening to make some great musical statements. Jay and Mark were also in fine form, and Bob, Jay, and Robin combined to make one impressive rhythm machine. Shakedown was authoritative in its power to open the show, and the ensuing Easy Answers was a continuation of this fine synchronicity between the band members. This show was already getting that "extra-special" vibe to it. Mission was touching, with great vocals by Bob. Loose Lucy got the joint absolutely jumpin', then Bob led the crowd through a highlight performance of Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance, amazing stuff. An unexpected Friend set closer got everybody ready for a fantastic second set.
RatDog did not disappoint. MAMU, Candyman, and Masterpiece were all beautifully done. The real fireworks began with the hands-down best rendition of Lucky Enough I've heard. During the middle solo, the band just took it and spaced out, out there enough that I thought that they were just going to head into the next song, but eventually Bobby brought the group back around to finish the tune. Bravo, Bobby. They then exploded right into the best Estimated Prophet I've heard this band perform. It brought the crowd to a frenzy, and the band then jammed into a full-on Other One tease before jumping right into another highlight, He's Gone. This was a BIG crowd favorite. A great RD jam followed and segued into a personal fav, Ashes & Glass, a song that I was rooting to hear big-time before the show. Thanks Bob! China > Rider to close the second set impressed me with the Shakedown-like authority to its performance. Robin gave a nice little Deal tease as the band headed into its encore U.S.Blues. A fantastic show and a must-have recording for sure. Happy birthday everyone!!
Tyler Ainley, Malvern, PA
It is now over a month after this show, but I wanted to wait til I recieved my CD of the show to review it. I was flying on the lysergic goodness, and my memory was a bit hazy, so I thought is was better to wait. I had been excited for a long time that Bobby was coming to philly to celebrate his birthday, and I bought my tickets as soon as they went on sale, which was about a month and a half before the show. After chilling in the parking lot for a bit I decided to head in. There was hardly anyone in the Factory at that time, but it quickly filled up. There is something about Dead shows where you can feel the anticipation of everyone in the audience, and the energy radiating from the silent equipment onstage before the band comes out. Bobby and the boys came out with a funky jam that turned into 'Shakedown.' The place went wild. Next came 'Easy Answers' which was welcome to me becasue I had heard so many repeats over the Summer Getaway. Next came a tender 'Mission in the Rain' which almost bought tears to my eyes, and Bobby quickly started to play this funky blues progression which turned into a wondeful 'Loose Lucy.' Does anyone besides me ever wonder why the band slowed this one down so much from the version on 'Mars Hotel'? 'Sailor->Saint' followed, which I had been dying to hear all summer. I dont understand why Bobby is so stingy with that song when he plays with the Dead. They only did it twice this summer. I had never heard Bobby do that as many times as I have seen him, and now I can die a happy man. The version that they played was flawless, with Mark shining through and really impressing me. 'Friend of the Devil' followed to close the set, but the backgroud singers totally butcher this one, and Bobby comes in too early on one of the verses. The break was ok, and everyone looked really happy.
When the band came back on stage, poor Bobby got battered with inflatable guitars and sprayed with silly string as eveyone sang happy birthday. Bob looked amused. The second set started with 'Me and My Uncle,' which I am pretty sick of hearing at this point. Why not add "Big Iron" from the first Kingfish album to the repetoire? I would love that!!! Next came 'Candyman,' which was nice, into a rip roaring 'Masterpiece,' which is one of my favorite Bobby/Dylan tunes. The original Dylan version of this song really sucks, and I am glad that Bobby did what he did to it because it is a great song. Bobby returned to his electric guitar for 'Lucky Enough,' which is one of my favorite Ratdog tunes, followed by a wondeful Estimated Prophet.' They started to go into 'The Other One,' which I was disappointed to hear, but as if by my request, Bob stopped the band in its tracks, and the sweet rocking beat of 'He's Gone' enveloped the crowd, and made us all "smile, smile, smile." This was followed by Ratdog's version of drums, which was entertaining and included most of the band except Bob. I could see Bob sitting by the side of the stage watching his band do their thing and having a drink. The band returned for a phenominal 'Ashes and Glass,' which I have always enjoyed, followed by a wonderful 'China->Rider,' which brought the crowd to a deafinging roar after its completion.
I was expecting 2 encores, but we only got one: 'U.S. Blues.' It was cool to see this Rasputin/mountain man guy on the Ratdog crew run around with a giant US flag during the "wave that flag" lines. All and all a wonderful show, but the background vocals need some work. Please do 'Big Iron' guys; you will please us all.
Mike, Philadelphia, PA