Sometimes the setlist is what makes a show special, but last night it was the sheer intensity of the music. The Ramble On Rose was amazing. Our beloved and departed Jerry would jam it twice through hot or not toward the climax of the song, but Bob knows better. He lets a good jam materialize and lets it go on and on, and with some patience, it becomes frenzied. The Estimated-Wheel combo was awesome, and the Peter-DStar-SugarMag combo was incredible, the crowd hangin on to each note. Having seen quite a few shows lately, I would rank last night as an A-, and I'm sure Jerry would have been amazed at how inspired the PETER was--maybe the hottest one I ever saw with the exception of the post coma Peter in Calif in 1987 when Jerry came off his death bed to wow the crowd with this gloomy song of impending sorrow. Thanks!
liebo, Eastchester, NY
It's been a year or so since I last saw a Ratdog show. After no "Dead" tour this past summer and my inability to attend any of Ratdog's summer shows, I was eagerly awaiting Booby's arrival in my backyard, The former Westbury Music Fair. Despite living my whole life in the NYC area, and always being an avid concert goer, I had never been to this small intimate venue.
Ratdog was on... way on. I've always gauged Dead shows and post Dead shows on the "Holy Shit" factor. Wherein, after a particularly stunning jam, all I could say to my cohorts over and over was, "Holy Shit!" All I can say is Ratdog delivered more "Holy Shits" last night than I have experienced in many years. I've been seeing all the post Dead projects over the past 10 years. Last night was truly one of the highlights of the past decade of shows for me. It was for both of my companions, and seemed to be for everyone around me.
The opening Truckin/Ramble On Rose was strong. A great, Big Boss Man. A powerful Fly Away. A super groove during West LA. This all kicked off an awesome first set. The kicker was the following Tomorrow Never Knows>Iko. Iko was huge, a total blast. Rob Barraco (or the happiest man alive as my brother and I call him) seemed to add such a happy energy to the stage.
The second set just seemed to take off and never falter. It's great to hear Bobby McGee and Jack-A-Roe paired together. The Masterpiece was tremendous. I thought my head was going to explode during the Estimated peaks, only to be followed by a boisterous Wheel. The "young guys" played an extremely fast and intense jam as Bob took his short break. Actually it was unbelievably fast and powerful.
I thought Black Peter was absolutely transcendent. The vocals and the power that they exhibited during the chorus was just unsurpassed in any performance of this song that I've seen in years.
Very cool to hear the 2nd verse of Darkstar only. Finishing a previous night's first verse? A classic, big, huge, full blown, my legs are going to fall off if I keep dancing Sugar Mags ended the show pefectly. The energy level was so high, Bob and the guys could only bring it down with a beautiful Brokedown encore.
My brother, his girlfriend and I as well as the people around us thought this show was one for the ages.
The only bad news...as I exited and asked if this show's CD was available, I was informed that they were not allowed to record this show for some reason!!! I have the memory. My legs and voice are killing me today, and maybe somebody else taped it.
Chris, Glen Cove, NY
Liebo's review begins with what I think is a dead on observation; when we think about the shows we've experienced, they can often be evaluated in a variety of different contexts--and surely the intensity of the music and the setlist of that show are two of the primary means by which we can evaluate a show. And that was especially true at Ratdog's Fall 2005 Westbury gig. I say that because in and of itself, the set list of this show was nearly perfect. And the intensity, at many intervals, was extraordinary.
Although I've been attending Dead related shows since my first GD show in April, 1976, this was my first live Ratdog experience. I've listened to numerous recordings of the band over the last three plus years, and it was a treat to see them live and to feel the music--an experience which can rarely be duplicated by merely listening to the recording. My first experience seeing the band was a nearly flawless one; the set list, as I said, was compelling, and the band, to this listener's ears, was right on.
Still, I have one comment, which as I review the concert as a whole, is important. I preface the comment by acknowledging that it must be a challenge for this, or any, band, to be glued to a relatively static playlist night in and night out. No doubt, the creative juices of any musician flow more readily when the material remains fresh, and the need for newer material--and the stretching of musical chops, so to speak--can't be denied. At the same time, though, the introduction of lesser known material to any show, especially if this material doesn't seem to match up with the celestial nature of the existing and much beloved catalogue possessed by the
band, can be a danger if it can't reach the same highs to which the "old favorites" far more easily ascend. And in this regard, and to this listener, Westbury's first set suffered by the inclusion of three songs: Wrong Way Feeling, Lucky Enough, and Fly Away.
It seemed to me that this beloved band suffered the loss of the sold out audience's fervor during these three songs that just didn't measure up to the rest of the evening. I understand, as I hope I've demonstrated, the importance of playing lesser known material. And I've often wondered what Mr. Weir really does think about the fact that he's still playing such precious gems as Dark Star and Sugar Magnolia more than 35 years later. Does he secretly tire of them? Can he really find musical fulfillment night after night with these old songs, even if they constantly remain cherished by the fans? Do the songs mean anything to him anymore, or has he learned that they are his bread and butter, that they are what the people want, and thus he just cannot turn away from them?
Perhaps the answer is in the playing, for last night's performance of the more desired pieces was stellar. Opening a set with Truckin' is wonderful; perhaps this band does that from time to time, I don't know, but it instantly draws the crowd right into the show, as it surely did last night. Ramble On Rose was like candy to me; long a personal favorite, Kenny Brooks’ saxophone was more compelling in person than it is on the tapes I’ve heard. His ability to solo for such an extended period, especially at the depth of scale which he was playing, was extraordinary. Iko, as always was magical; the crowd was electrified by it's power, and the seeming simple rhythm, which so many of us have heard time and time again, combined with the furious playing of guest Rob Baracco, brought ecstacy to all in attendance.
The second set was where the money really was. The initially acoustic, and progressively more electric, first three songs were wonderous. To hear Mr. Weir sing Me and Bobby McGee was a beautiful thing; it was topped only by the monster rendition of When I Paint My Masterpiece, which was sung, word for word, by the 53,243 people in attendance at Westbury last night. Mr. Weir’s voice remains in fine stead, and this listener was especially reminded of the fact that during the acoustic set.
Listen to me now, and hear me always: This band lifted off during the Estimated/Wheel which followed after Masterpiece. And the liftoff during Estimated was so powerful that it reached what was to me that rarified state of true Grateful Dead intensity. Mark Karan was incendiary during the song’s jam, and the crowd was brought higher and higher as the jam progressed. This burst of pure energy was, to me, the highlight of the show. It was a massively powerful, progressively building up to a crescendo which eventually brought the house down. The immediate segue into Wheel was slyly executed, and well before the crowd realized it had been brought into the heart of one of Jerry’s own masterpieces.
As noted in the other reviews on this page, the Black Peter which broke out of what sounded to me like a Cold Rain and Snow tease, was classic, and the again house rocked with everyone helping Mr. Weir out with the vocals. The Dark Star (v.2) was captivating, and just hearing the famous opening strains of the melody made my heart pound even harder than it already was. And then, a bodacious Sugar Magnolia, with the house lights swirling, the band thumping, and the entire venue shaking.
Perhaps the question was answered as to whether this material can remain vital to Mr. Weir all these years later. Dark Star and Sugar Mags really knocked me out, and given the fact that Estimated Prophetz--the clear highlight of the show for me--had already blinded me with its brightness, it took a very special combination to even come close to that. The end of the second set reached that level and made this a memorable, memorable experience.
Brokedown Palace was a suave encore for this show; the band had already brought its best passion to the show, and the comparative calmness of the beautifully played encore was received by an appreciative audience with true gratefulness. In the end, Gratefulness is what it’s all about for me. And on Monday, November 7, 2005, Bob Weir and Ratdog delivered the goods. Big time. I look forward to the next show.
Neil, New York, NY