Excellent show. Jam>Playin>TNK to open was top-notch, including a full version of Playin'. Jay cracked me up by doing a version of Donna's usual vocal wail before the reprise. Kimock's guitar was screamin' throughout and they took the jams all over the place. TNK showed Kimock doing whale sounds by waving his Strat at his amp, then he did huge swales of slide. Both songs got quite freaky for this early in the set, I was loving it. Quite a titanic start to the night. Just Like Mama Said - first time for me, sounded nice. Senor was another Ratdog first for me and I loved it, Bob delivered the lyrics with authority and the band played it heavy. Loose Lucy got everybody screaming and was tighter than some other versions I've heard, tons o' fun. Bertha was a powerful set closer with some big bombs and great singing/jamming throughout. Very solid first set, great vibe in the Aragon. And the sound was stellar, which was a relief, as that place used to sound muddy and terrible if you weren't in the first 10-15 rows. Whatever they did made a big difference - Ratdog sounded great no matter where we were on the floor.
Second set started with The Winners, which was a thrill for me. I saw Weir/Wass play this one at the Ritz in NYC in 1990 for the first time, great damn tune with Rudyard Kipling lyrics. Masters of War was another Ratdog first for me, and like Senor, I was most impressed. Heavy and nasty and delivered very strongly by Mr Weir. Keller and two horn players came out for Althea and Aiko, a very nice pairing. Althea started a taste shaky with Bob and Keller seemingly not agreeing on a key intro chord, but suddenly the horn guests blew the main melody prominently and everybody fell immediately into formation, it was great. Bob used the teleprompter and hit all the lyrics, no easy feat on that tune. The horns were a fantastic addition on this one, these guys totally nailed it. Keller was groovin' and adding tasty acoustic guitar, no samples or loops or anything, though. Aiko was a big party as expected, and again the horns were a fine addition. Bob and Keller extemporized some extra verses (Bob did "Girl in Red, Shoot you Dead, Girl in Blue, Shoot you Too". And it sounded like Keller did "Girl in Orange, Talks like a Whore", but I'm not positive about that one...). Jay took a quick powerful drum solo after this, then Ratdog minus Bob plus the horn players (but no Keller) threw down a fast but very solid and fun syncopated funk jam with some nice on-the-fly composing. Bob came out mid-jam and kicked it into another direction nicely for a while before rounding a bend and settling into Sugaree. This turned out to be a huge version, many big jams from every corner of the stage, the whole band killing it and the guest horn players really stretching out. Kenny was super generous to those guys, kept egging them on to take another round of solos. There was a funny moment where he tried to get them both to play at once and they both missed it and ended up taking solos separately. Two Djinn was next and went to some nice spaces, lots of ensemble jamming again, keeping up the theme of the whole show. NFA with the return of the 3-headed horn section was a rocking closer, very well jammed out and tightly sung as well. Big chant/clap from the crowd while the band quickly pondered the encore and came back to blow through a fast and fun JGB. Not the giant jam out one might have hoped for after the night Kimock had had, but totally solid and the crowd was dancing wildly. I think they had their eye on the clock at this point, as they wrapped it up pretty quickly.
So, a kick-ass show, a major step up from the enjoyable but much less daring and out-there show in Milwaukee two weeks ago. Kimock has confidently settled into his place on lead guitar, and the other guys seemed happy to have him. The harmony vocals will killer tonight too, way less tentative than what I heard in Milwaukee. They did a nice alternate harmony part on Aiko that sounded fresh, and Bob had them stretching out the lines in Sugaree in a cool way. Very happy to have attended this one.
Oh, yea, at the end of his opening set, Keller said, "Oh look, it's Bob Weir, coming to save the day", which was pretty funny, as I think Keller's last tune on piano kind of lost the crowd a bit... After much fiddling around with the in-ear monitor mix and whatnot (Bob said, "We've got a glitch to work out"), Bob joined Keller for Race is On and Bird Song. The crowd sang along on both songs, and it was very cool to see Keller sampling/looping Bobby's guitar on Birdsong and then letting him jam over it while Keller added bass and vocal flourishes. I saw a bunch of Weir/Wass acoustic shows years ago, and this was as close to that sensation of 'pure Bob' on acoustic guitar as I've heard since then, really nice to my ear, and cool to see Bob out on a limb doing something new and different.
Althea/Sugaree in same set is classic, old school. Never thought I 'd see that again. Iko and Sugaree with horns blew everybody's mind..(and ears). This show was one big sing-a long. You know it's good when you walk out hoarse with ears ringing.
todd rowan, northbrook
good show, you should defenetly d/l if you can. the horny guys helping kenny out almost stole the show.the power of three horns was awesome, takeing jams into the stratasphere. during nfa the place was booming cuz the aragons floor is suspended by springs and the booming was louder than the p.a. the dylan tunes slowed it down some but the jams were on fire tonight.
christian, chicago ridge
Agree with both above reviews. The Sugaree was the absolute highlight for me and the horns made it even better! Aragon would not be my first choice for a Chicago venue, but it was pretty good last nite. Not oversold and it sounded good. Can't wait til they come round again
jozzer, Downers Grove
All is all a weak performance from a band that could have really made last night a night to remember. There were moments of really high flying stuff but they were few and far between. Examples of what they are capable of were clearly demonstrated in:
Just like Mama Said - First time I've heard this tune. This was the 3rd song in and I felt the band had finally warmed up once they were done with this song (which is a shame since the song with the most potential to get 'out there' the furthest in this entire show was the set I opening playin in the band...had they saved it for later in the set or for set II my review would probably be pretty different. This was the only song that had any 'meat' to it that they played all night but they were still feeling each other and the sound out since it was the first song). The end of the song had some crazy intergalactic type tone from Kimock and Bob was really just belting out the last verses with a passion and growl in his voice that is quite remarkable after all these years.
Another nugget came during Loose Lucy. This song was clearly the best thing to come out of the first set. Kimock took a tasteful solo and the groove of the song was held solid from start to finish. The crowd was eating this one up big time and the band played off of this energy really well.
The second set was highlighted with a slow slithering Althea, a foot stomping (and at times jaw dropping) version of Aiko Aiko and a monstrous version of Sugaree.
The Althea started and I think Bob wanted to really stretch the song out by milking every note and chord change so he really really slowed down the intro to a near crawl. it was fantastic. It just worked on every level and got the crowd really excited for what turned out to be a nice version of the song. "this space is getting hot" was damn right. (In a greed-filled move to sell more beer the Aragon was hovering around 100 degrees on the main floor. Just absolutely ridiculous considering it was like 60 degrees outside.)
The Aiko Aiko was fun - the horn players stepped up to the plate and helped add some punch to a band that is severely lacking in that department. The trumpet player in particular took some nice lengthy solos that the crowd was going nuts over. Strangely I thought the trumpet came out really good sound-wise. Usually the Aragon is an acoustic snake pit but yesterday things were actually not entirely bad...bordering on acceptable. The trumpet player brought the band to a crescendo it hadn't hit all show so that was exciting....and equally disappointing in a certain way.
The gem of the show came in the form of a slow powerful sledgehammer type version of Sugaree. Kimock delivered a solo that really underscored what he adds to the band. With his precision riffs and that unmistakable jerry tone he just melted the audience with his final solo. It was like thunder struck somewhere on stage - very strong very heavy.
So those are the examples of what I think the band is capable of when they are all pushing one another and attacking the music full throttle. As I said these moments were magical - but few and far between.
I don't know if Bob constructed this band to be very different than the GD - I can imagine that was the intent and I can also imagine an artist would like to change things up every 30 years or so just to keep their sanity but did Bob purposely create a rhythm section that is competent at best? I can't be in the minority when I say how unimpressed I was with the rhythm section (and drummer particularly) pretty much the entire show. The lack of a real motor in the rhythm section reduces the Oh My God moments in songs to the point where you think you aren't hearing things correctly...like uh wasn't there supposed to be a fury of drums and cymbal crashes there???
Maybe the intent of the band is to take us out of our comfort zones with these songs we've heard for so long...maybe the band is constructed to react like a sports car with very little weight in the rhythm section...well if that was the intent how come everything is so slow all the time? Its like they are built to round corners at top speed but choose to just drive slow.
I'm not a big setlist guy in terms of a show being great or horrible just based off of song selection...hell one of my favorite songs of the night I just heard for the first time, but man oh man...you got Steve kimock in your band and you played how many songs that are pretty much strictly 2 chord jams? First Bertha (solo was botched timing was off), then Aiko Aiko, then Sugaree, then NFA? Why not just include Fire on the Mountain, and Women are Smarter and just complete the misery. I like all the songs listed above but not all in the same show...lol. By the time NFA started I was like what the fuck. Limit the most talented player on stage BY FAR to two chords..not really playing to your strengths both literally and figuratively. Ratdog...you got Kimock - and he actually seems really interested in these gigs so DISH...give us something to sink our teeth into!
All in all walked out of the show and realized that I would see this exact show again in a heartbeat knowing exactly what I would hear again. The music was good it wasn't bad. Its just I could hear the potential that this group of musicians are capable of and I don't think they played to that level. We are all deserving of our off nights and maybe a combination of things including the insufferable heat contributed to this show where the fastest song played was Bertha and Johnny b Goode....and bertha wasn't a crazy energy fueled version and the Johnny b goode had to be the slowest rendition of the song I've ever heard. End Review....Go Bulls.
bulls fan, chicago
Show Started at 9:00 & they walk off at 12:00. The Aragon, first of all for the last 20 years they just can't get air into the place, why is this so hard, it was 106F in some areas of the main floor. Once again choking for air & drifting & dreaming I heard some great music. Kimock has trained his whole career to play this music; he excels at jamming & really gets the energy of the songs & players around him. Always concerned with his tonal quality, he will use many different guitars & effects to get the right sound for the moment. Bobby for the first time since 70’s was playing a Gibson ES-335 (Cherry Sunburst); it sounded great & always good to see Bobby playing Gibson. Bobby had three horn players on stage with the band. The show was truly fantastic & reminded me of many older times with the Dead feeling good on some grassy knoll as the music fed my brain. Bobby brought it back to the now with his slow syncopated versions of favorite beloved tunes. Kimock thrives in these moments which makes big splatter for all. Folks if you are looking for the hard driving sound of the Jimmy Herring time with Phil & Friends you won't find it here, but you will find the soul of the dead which bobby has been true to & has kept alive for 42 years.
GO SEE THIS TOUR NOW, STOP READING THIS & CLUE IN!
bull fan, thank you sooooo much for expressing exactly what i was thinking, in a very deft manner. have you ever considered writing for a living or hobbie?
jonathan, columbus, oh
This was a great show to see ! Yea...Sound was good as well! Had a great time...Ratdog is a cool band to see! Nice set lists as well.
Rob, Wauconda, Ill
Good show. I also think that bulls fan above covered the highlights. I had a great time. The Aragon seems to be in great shape after all of these years. Everytime I thought the band would go right, they went left. I do think that they could have stepped it up a bit more, but often, when you think a show just was not exactly great - they kill you at the next one. Hope they hit the Riv this fall and do just that. Go Bob! P.S. Please leave Kellar at home this fall.
This was my first Ratdog live experience and I had a blast!
The band was great throughout, and I especially enjoyed their take on Tomorrow Never Knows and Sugaree. Bobby did a grate job on the Dylan songs, and the horns were sharp! Loose Lucy was phenomenal, and it was a thrill hearing Bertha live, as well. Ending with Not Fade Away and the Johnny B. Goode encore sent me home feeling the perfect rock and roll high.
The folks I met were absolutely wonderful, all sharing bits of information, and I got a kick out of having to identify the Beatles' song for some of the younger ones. The concert experience was all I expected it to be, and then some.
This 54 year old unrepentant hippie is grateful to Bobby and the boys for reminding us that the music never stops, and I just have to say Thank you, for a real good time!!!
RatDog at the Aragon Ballroom on Chicago’s Northside, I return to the place of my birth, foot-stomping, arm-flailing song salvation. Oh, Kate Ann, fellow traveler from Miami, finding you there was tops, after all we’ve been through, and I can barely let you go. That sweet little scene in the city parking lot, I get the dancing bears I’ve been searching for. Show starts at seven sharp, Keller tries to entertain, muddy sound echoes off pillars, balconies, turrets and sundry Spanish castle motifs until Bobby comes out “to save the day” and “work out the glitch.” Race is On and Birdsong with Keller, good for what ails me, stompin’ happy sad sing-a-longs.
I move down and upstairs, through the general admission mesh, chat sound and setlists with Barrington-Illinois-taper-dude-originally-from-Ohio. When the Dog comes out settle for sound strong enough to restart a heartbeat, coming through the wooden floor suspended on springs, my bones rattle, the mechanism clears. Playin heats up into Tomorrow Never Knows, John Lennon’s Tibetan Book of the Dead mind-expansion-ego-death tribute and the Beatlemaniac-Deadhead-Doghead broken-hearted lover remembers Mama [God rest her soul] Said you’ll be sorry…I look heavenward, at constellations twinkling on the ceiling, swirl through Senor, poignant Dylan, and then oh my god Loose Lucy. I’m known as Lulu in another time and place and suddenly I’m slipping through dark alleys and running Chicago streets, it all floods back and I move and groove to Lucy, strong enough to be a set closer but no, there’s more, a playful Book of Rules, the Heptones tune, into wonders-never-cease Bertha and I remember everyone I’ve visited in jail and how much I love running through rainstorms. Bertha builds, smokes, explodes into a set closer. The sound is muddy and blitzed and I need to really hear the show. I order soundboards during the break at the Dog Merchandise table. Listening now, they’re almost too clean, but I feel it in my chest still.
A short 15 minute break and Bobby returns with Winners and Dylan’s Masters of War and can-it-really-be, Althea? Yes, with dueling rhythm guitars as Keller reappears and a horn section, this is Chicago, a trumpet and another saxophone and now Kenny leads the free for all, tight and loose, crazy and beautiful, “I told Althea…this place is getting hot…” sweat pours down, this much fun should be illegal but instead the band slips into Iko Iko oh my and the joint is jumping and Keller says his girl is “dressed in orange and squeaks like a door hinge” and the crowd unhinges and the nine man band stays together for Sugaree, the show peaks and I’m under the stacks now, front row, stage left, to study Steve Kimock, new lead guitarist, because I need to know where those notes are coming from. It’s the quiet guy, barefoot, sitting on a stool and I’m transported to my father’s funeral, “when they bring that wagon round.” I’m sad and happy and shake it, shake it and the horn section wails, squeals, when’s the next show, why don’t I go on the road with this band, I love it more than anything, three more songs and I’m in line for show CDs, watching 4000 plus happy fans pour out into the street, warm summer night, hippies move through the Kinetic Playground, across the street and Bobby sings Ramble On Rose, through the open door. The “L” trains come and go, come and go, at the Lawrence station. I’m a bit deaf, a tad lame, pierced and on the mend, blown away, the show, the Aragon.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
RamblonRoze, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
First chance to see Keller, well done!
Social Worker and Financial Girl, very nice to meet you, always a plus to make new friends.
SW thanks for the honesty at the end of the night, wish we had more time to talk!
Steve Green, Madison Wi
First time seeing Ratdog and I left wondering when I could fit them into my schedule again. Loose Lucy, Playing in the Band, Bertha and Not Fade Away were mesmerizing with the floor vibrating underneath to every beat. I was down in the front row overheating, someone handing me a piece of ice....it had to be an angel. The vibe was strong, overpowering and addictive. A quick end with Johnny B Goode left me with mixed feelings. I guess I'll satisfy them next month (I fit it into my schedule).
See you in NJ.......
Sondra, Grand Rapids, MI
This was my first Ratdog show and it was a blast. The Iko Iko was definitely the highlight for me, the whole crowd singing "hey now!" along just made it feel like a great experience altogether. I also throughly enjoyed the Althea and Bertha. A great first experience for seeing Bobby in person. I can wait to see him again sometime soon.