Bob Weir and Ratdog rolled through Vegas with a head of steam that began at Disneyland two nights prior. Any worries about the state of Bobby and Ratdog were dispelled in the opening chords of "Bucket" which rang out over the crowd. Yes Bobby would be with us for awhile afterall. This particular Bucket was a rocker with the famous ride reprise done with style and energy. A surprising and stellar "Wheel" followed in which Bobby evoked the crowd to sing the chorus line. The band then turned it up a notch with "Big Boss Man" which featured killer solos by Jeff, and Kenny B, before Mark exploded on his own section of the tune. Jeff Chementi's signature keys help define the Ratdog sound. My favorite part of the song was when Bobby sang "you won't let Bobby stop" How true indeed. They then stepped into the lounge for a twinkling "This Time Forever" followed by a raw "Shade of Grey"
The all American tune Cassidy followed which dissolved perfectly into a "Dark Star Jam" continuing what they had begun at the Celebrity theter in Phoenix. This gave the jam a vast approach literaly spanning two states and an open desert landscape. He brought us out of our cosmic dillusions with "Deep Elem Blues" a great selection for the town. Bobby sang the song with emotion and care feeling every lyric and painting the image of the wild,wild west. The numerous freaks on the dance floor solitified this picture, and I had the Deep Elem Blues. The band came together to end the set with "Scarlet Begonias" This scene cannot be put into words needless to say it was bleeping incredible. The band caught fire. It might of began with M.K's squirming guitar solos but soon Bobby was lunging into the crowd striking his guitar feverishly. The place was going nuts. It was amazing. Intermission left me time to chat with good friends, before the band took the stage for the second set.
A spectacular "Victim" emerged complete with it's haunted melodic turns. This song really expresses Bobby's ability as both a singer, player and band director as he kept the band in balance with his slight hand gestures. Victim twanged out merging into a surprising "Corrina." Bobby shined as he delivered this powerful love song to the House of Blues. In midstream he switched to his electric guitar which mingled with Kenny's sax bumps. Ofcourse Jay Lane was solid as ever which can never be overlooked. He is the best in the buisness and a cool dude to boot. We shook it on the dance floor to Corrina before the song collapsed into an awkward ending which left Bobby grinning. He had zigged when the band zagged. The silent moment peacefully sprang into "Terrapin Station" which was the centerpiece of the night. We were transported to the land of Terrapin; a pyschedelic and forboding domaine. Bobby told the story of the soldier and the sailor beatifully while the crowd swayed to the blissfull rythms. Robin Sylvesters Bassline thumped anchoring the voyage. Mark captured one of my favorite Jerry solos in his own brilliant way before the song climaxed into its symphonic crescendo which was eventually taken over by Kenny who was wailing. HE even did a little dance twirling his sax over his head. Thank you Kenny. A swiirly space followed in the wake of "Terrapin." Space offered the talents of Jeff, Kenny, and Jay. The boys of Alphabet Soup jazzed it up and then tranced it out before Bobby reappeared from the wings to take us home. We travelled through space back into "Terrapin" for the Flyer reprise. To my untrained ear this seems like one of the most complex pieces Ratdog conqures. Jay and Kenny drive the beat while Mark lurks in the shadows kicking his legs into the air. We cross from Terrapin into the far reaches of "Dark Star" as Bobby slinks along in snarling fashion. Behind him the captivating light show cast through the nightfall of diamonds. After more Dark Star jamming the pace quikens and we find ourselves straining to hear the familiar chords of "Cassidy" and its final words. It was a classic ending to a memorable evening yet I couldn't help feeling that something was missing. The encore satisfied my hunger with a 'Samson and Delilah" of biblical proportions. Jay attacked the intro making primal faces while Bobby dug in for some dazzling slide which had me bouncing up and down in amazement and joy. The band expended the last energy of the weekend pouring it into this timeless song. Bobby screaming the chorus "if I had my way, I would tear this old building down." Thats right. A blessed audience washed out onto the casino floor better from what they had witnised.
Tim Grossman, Ashland, OR