Bob Weir & RatDog
Do you remember that “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” bit from Tennyson? Well, that’s the theme for today’s RatDog review. As you’ll recall, 3 short weeks ago I was raving about seeing the Black Crowes at the Boston Opera House and moving our pre-show festivities to Silvertone’s. Well, on Saturday night we were back at the Orpheum to see Weir and we returned to Fajitas & Ritas for the pre-show. And the same description can be applied to both locales: dirty and disappointing.
RatDog on the other hand can be described thusly: some good, some bad and a whole lot of cheese. In other words, it was your average Saturday night with Bobby and the boys!
The good news was that Mark Karan was back on guitar, looking good and playing fine, after his successful battle with cancer. As nice as it was to see Steve Kimock play with the band when Mark was sick, Mark fits Bobby’s vision for the band better. People forget that RatDog is primarily a jazz band and Kimock hews closer to Phil’s 1968-esque psychedelic vision of the post-Jerry Dead. Bobby is all about the jazz. And the cheese. Always the cheese.
Onto the songs…
Jam-Jack Straw: Let the record show that I predicted this opener on Friday and I have the e-mail to prove it. Actually, I was psychically tuned in all night and called just about every song correctly. Some among us may claim to have called songs first, but there’s a big difference between guessing what song is next and calling it off of the opening chords. Jack Straw was excellent as always.
Easy to Slip: And the cheese comes early! This is an excellent Bobby solo (cover) tune and it was a treat to catch live again. Nice version. I was hoping for a Supplication jam, but was apparently getting ahead of myself.
Bird Song: RatDog, buoyed by Kenny’s sax, does a creditable version of Bird Song, but this song’s strength always came from Jerry’s delicate vocal and playing. I’m not sure that anyone can capture that same spirit. And credit to Kenny B., he predicted a mellow show and the Slip-Bird combo definitely set the tone for a mellow night. Unfortunately, the jam got a little Jazz Explosion-y at the end.
Book of Rules: Damn you, Bobby! Look, I respect that you honor your influences, but no one wants to hear that weak-ass Heptones reggae shit. PB time.
All Along the Watchtower: And now we’ve officially entered the first set dead zone. Coming after Book of Rules I was fully expecting the reggae breakdown at the end, but thankfully we were spared. Honestly, unless Hendrix rises from the grave I don’t need to hear Watchtower anymore.
Lazy River Road: Now some may make the case that Bobby has been overplaying LRR the last few years but I really love this song and I’d be happy to hear it just about every night. RatDog just owns this song – the tempo is perfect, the vibe is great and the multiple solos are beautiful. I’m always happy to get a Lazy River Road.
Supplication Jam: There’s that Supplication jam that I was expecting! It’s a great jam, traditionally paired with Lazy Lightning but more recently with Easy to Slip.
Bertha: A good, high energy closer to the set and a well-played version at that.
K.C. Moan: the acoustic portion started with a great K.C. Moan, always one of Bobby’s strongest cowboy songs.
Friend of the Devil: another strong acoustic number, FOTD is one of those overplayed songs that you can still enjoy hearing live.
Masters of War: Yikes! We sure got the short-end of the Dylan covers tonight. Hey Bobby – newsflash – Obama won! We don’t need the 10 minute anti-war folk dirge anymore! Masters is a classic, but it’s Saturday night and the war criminal party just got voted out of office. How about a Silvio-Tequila instead?
West L.A. Fadeaway: West L.A. is one of those rare songs that RatDog does better than the GD ever did. I enjoyed this version, but you’ll note that we got yet another long, slow song dropped on us. Energy flagging…
Good Lovin’: …and the energy is back! Good Lovin’ is a song that I’d never go out of my way to hear, but Bobby rocks it and they played it quite well – and finally we got an upbeat number. Let’s hope for two…
Stuff: Aw crap, is it time for Stuff (a.k.a. Jazz Explosion mach 2) already? Alright, I’m sitting down and zoning out for this one.
Days Between: By Great Phil’s Ghost, another long slow song! WTF, Bobby? I like Days Between but it’s the kind of song that you want to hear at home, not during a Saturday night show. And you just know what’s coming next…
Bird Song Reprise: Just in case the first 15 minutes of Bird Song didn’t put you to sleep…it’s back!
One More Saturday Night: Unlike others, I’ll never complain about the OMSN second set closer. It’s part of the RatDog fanboy contract – just check your fine print.
E: Ripple: I always love the Ripple closer, a suitably chill song to round out a surprisingly mellow night.
As you can guess, it was another epic show.
Just kidding. It was an average show at best – too low energy for a Saturday and no real gems. In fact, Good Lovin’ and Days Between were the only RD first timers for me, and neither was all that special. The playing was good (these guys are seasoned pros after all) but not inspired.
But, hey, I’m not complaining. Even with the weak setlist and terrible seats (from mail order, no less!) we all know that what we’re really getting for the price of admission is a brief journey back in time – a chance to hang out with friends, listen to the music we love, soak in the patchouli and remember when every day was like a Saturday night at the dirty old Orpheum.
There were days, and there were days
And there were days I know
When all we ever wanted
Was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
We told them where to go
Walked halfway around the world
On promise of the glow
Stood upon a mountain top
Walked barefoot in the snow
Gave the best we had to give
How much we’ll never know
We’ll never know
(But next time, Bobby, could you please play the Opera House?)