Monday, March 12, 2007

The Leader of the Band

Twice a year, I look forward to seeing the one band who for 3 1/2 hours per night, casts a spell over my psyche and spirit. Considering today's competition, this is a rare accomplishment. Not surprisingly, Bob Weir has had the same effect on millions of dedicated fans for decades. After the Grateful Dead "officially" disbanded after Jerry's untimely death in 1995, we saw the band assume a number of unimaginative pseudonyms and contstantly rotate a slew of special guests and alternate lineups. As much as I long to attend another "Dead Reunion" in the coming years, nothing has quite matched the authentic and often times imperfect persona of the Dead -- that was until Ratdog. Agree or disagree, Ratdog IS the best post-Dead collaboration -- they NEVER disappoint. So, on March 9-10, I joined thousands of others and trucked uptown to the landmark Beacon Theater in NYC to witness what would be another pair of remarkable performances by Dead-alum Bob Weir and Ratdog.

Friday opened with the always energetic, "Truckin'"-- a song that has deep roots within the great State of New York (namely NYC and Buffalo) -- followed by the crowd sing-a-longs "Ramble on Rose" and "Tennessee Jed" -- two of my personal favorites. We also heard the relatively rare "Good Morning Little School Girl" -- a song that drew some differing opinions here on The Weight in the last few weeks.

The second set was a bit more engaging. From the anthemic "Mississippi Half-Step," to the Jerry-tinged solo of "Stella Blue," to the jagged, yet congenial rendition of "Foolish Heart," the latter part of the show was "dead on." And of course, there was the obligatory Beatles homage in "Tommorow Never Knows." To close the show, the group masterfully pulled-off a haunting A capella version of "Attics of My Life" which undoubtedly sent chills rippling throughout the crowd.

Still on the "high" from Friday night, Saturday promised to be just as memorable. Although I found the first set just slightly above average (standouts included "Cassidy" and "Lazy River Road"), the second set was vintage Dead. To begin, Bobby came out sans-guiter and did is best Bing Crosby impression for an awkward yet endearing version of "My Funny Valentine." It was at that point, when Donna Jean appeared alongside of Bobby for "Friend of the Devil," that I knew we were in for a special treat. Thereafter, the show erupted -- "Quinn the Eskimo," "Althea," "Scarlet Begonias," and "Come Together" -- just to name a few. The 80-year old Beacon Theater was alive and kicking once again. I imagine this was what it was like to see the Dead at the Winterland or maybe the Fillmore West back in the 70's -- the energy was unmatched. Predicatably, the set closed with "One More Saturday Night" (although for some inexplicable reason, I don't recall hearing the tune) and thereafter, Bobby reappearead for a stellar encore performance of "Brokedown Palace." I'm already counting down the days until he returns in 2008, or if I'm lucky, later this year.

Like I said before, Ratdog NEVER disappoints, and this past weekend was no exception.

For the full set lists of all 3 shows, click here

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