Concert Review: Bob Weir & Ratdog in Boston, MA 7/10/07

Concert Review:
Bob Weir & RatDog
Bank of America Pavilion
Boston, MA

Once again, dear friends, let’s take a journey through time and space and celebrate the return to Boston of our beloved bard Bob Weir and his band RatDog, for our regular get-togethers. It’s been almost 3 whole months since our last gathering.

Before I commence with the traditional concert review, I must send out my thoughts, energy, love and vibes to Mark Karan. MK is the lead guitar player for RatDog and he recently revealed that he has been thrown a curveball – cancer – and is sadly off the road for treatment and recovery. Mark is a supremely talented musician, both as the leader of his delightful blues-pop band Jemimah Puddleduck, as well as in his higher-profile role as the man filling the biggest shoes in the music business (Mark has the impossible task of replacing Jerry Garcia. And you thought your day job was tough!) We’re pulling for you, Mark.

I’m a big believer that the venue can largely determine the make-up of the crowd at a show. And the crowd energy obviously affects the band and the band’s performance largely defines your overall experience. So, in essence, you need all three – a good venue with a positive crowd and a fired-up performance – to ensure a great show. This is most evident when you compare the vibe during a winter show at a shitty death metal club in Worcester (like the Palladium in Worcerster) versus a beautiful summer night on the Harbor in Boston.

The Bank of America Pavilion, formerly Harbor Lights, is a tremendous venue. It has great acoustics and holds 4,000 or so people. There’s a nice breeze from the ocean and all of the $9 beers you can handle (or afford.) It’s definitely my preferred summertime venue, as I am way too old and grouchy to down drive to the big outdoor shed in Mansfield. Unless John and George come back from the dead for a Beatles reunion, I’m never bothering with Great Woods again. (Joke courtesy of Kenny B.)

We all met up at the oh-so-trendy LTK, which is the Legal Test Kitchen, a modern version of Legal’s Sea Food. It was amusing how they quarantined all of the deadheads into the bar area. Yup, touring with the Daed hasn’t changed too much over the years, eating $30 lobster rolls before the show!

Being the positive thinker that I am (well, at least when it comes to Weir) shows typically fall into three categories: good, great and fantastic. This one was definitely closest to fantastic. Seriously!

Before RatDog’s set, Bobby came out to jam with Keller Williams on “The Race is On” and “Friend of the Devil”. Both songs were good and were more than enough Keller for me for one night.

Now, on to the main course:

Jam > Feel Like a Stranger: It was pretty obvious that the opening jam was going into Stranger and it was a good, albeit sloppy, Stranger. Even a mediocre Stranger sets the tone for a fun night, though.

Minglewood Blues: I’m a sucker for Minglewood and the obligatory “Boston fillies” references (and who isn’t?) It was at this point that I realized that fill-in guitarist Steve Kimock was going to work out just fine. And he did. Steve demonstrated an unexpected restraint from early on – knowing when to play and when to leave just enough space.

She Belongs to Me: The first of several Dylan tunes, I miss-called this one for QJA, as I frequently will. It was a good version with a particularly nice Sax solo from Kenny Brookes.

Money for Gasoline: One of the newer RatDog originals, and a good one, but we used it for a piss break. K. asked me, “so is this a new piss break song?” My thoughtful response was: “not by definition, but by default if nothing worse pops up when it’s time to break.” Best overheard bathroom conversation of the night: Loser #1: Is that the ocean out there? Loser #2: I think it might be Boston Harbor, but I’m not sure.

Loser: Very nice version, always a treat to hear.

Loose Lucy: This one is like shooting fish in a barrel. A guaranteed sing-a-long, this got the crowd revved up nicely.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: Dylan song #2. They play this as a very powerful acoustic tune. Always nice to hear this one and Bobby really hams it up.

Quinn the Eskimo: Dylan song #3 and what a great surprise! Keller came out for this one and it was a lot of fun. Never expected to hear Quinn!

Silvio > Tequila > Silvio > Tequila > Silvio: Dylan song #4. Now some people don’t like the bar band quality of this, but I love it. Basically they intersperse the Dylan tune Silvio with the “Tequila” song that Pee Wee Herman made famous.

Iko Iko: Another upbeat song, Iko usually follows the Silvio/Tequila bit and keeps the energy up. Iko’s always a good time, if not the greatest tune in the world.

Stuff: a.k.a. piss break #2. I have nothing against the guys doing their jazz fusion experiments, but it’s always a well-timed piss break, by definition. I can listen to it later on disc.

Black Peter: I absolutely love RatDog’s rendition of Black Peter. It’s very powerful and is such a nice jam. Robin was dropping crazy bombs at this point. Well done.

Two Djinn: Another RatDog original, Two Djinn is a sweet jam and always a nice song to get.

Not Fade Away: One of those songs that I don’t have to hear ever again, to their credit they did a really nice job with it. To the crowd’s credit, we kept the handclapping going straight through to the encore…

E: Brokedown Palace: Ahh. Now that’s more like it. Brokedown is one of the best encores and a sweet way to end another great night.

And just like that, it was over – another show in the books – one last trip through the lot and a then quick cab ride home. It’s fun to mark time from show to show, tour to tour. To observe the familiar pattern of fall-spring-summer tour and note how much, and how little, we’ve changed.  The best part is that we know that this can’t last forever, so we enjoy it while we can and enjoy that fun duality of enjoying the moment as it is and for what it is.


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