I just happened to arrive in Chi-town on Tuesday and just happened to notice an ad in the paper for the show. I took the el to the Vic in the pouring rain, not even really knowing where I was going, just hoping there'd be a ticket left. There was, and it turned out to be one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life. Standing 30 feet directly in front of Bob with acoustics better than the best headphones, Ratdog played a 3 hour 15 minute show that was the musical equivalent of rare filet mignon with fine wine. Plenty of familiar Dead classics (Bertha, Jack Straw, Half-Step, Playin, etc.) and other less well-known but worthy tunes--all framed and woven together with beautifully and imaginatively played sequences and reprises of Dark Star, Terrapin, and Cassidy--gave the entire show the feel of thoughtfully put together (but still loose and organic) suite. Everyone's playing was thrilling and committed, especially Mark's guitar solos throughout. Horns, keys, bass, and drums were all great (as was the mix), and Bob's singing was warm, rocking, and soulful. The crowd was totally into the band and the show (we basically roared ourselves horse after each number) and we were rewarded with an explosive encore of GDTRFB. I saw the Dead this summer in Maryland, and they weren't even close to being this good. Same (no disrespect intended 'cause I love all these guys) with recent Phil and Friends. One guy next to me said he spent $3,000 this summer following the Dead and didn't see a show as good as this one. My only Ratdog show this year, but it's hard for me to imagine them (or anyone) playing better. The miracle is, I expect they're this good every night. For all of you, I hope so. For myself, I feel verrrrry lucky to have been in Chicago at the Vic on Tuesday, November 4, 2003. I'll never forget it. Thanks, Bob. Thanks, guys. As someone behind me shouted out, "I needed that." These days, don't we all.
Jim Curtin, Washington, DC
By far the best first set I've seen in a while. Threw us all off with Bertha opener. Turned into a fine jam with the Dark Star tease and of course my call "Jack Straw".... Very tight set with no miscues. Very happy to see Bobby in great form with a couple of new faces in the band. Unfortunately everything came to a screaching halt at setbreak when my friend got locked up for opening a door. Very disheartening that I couldn't see the next set but once again the first set made up for any bad things. Keep on groovin' and be safe in the last few months of 2003.
Tommy Tuesday, Chicago, IL