Thursday, April 10, 2008

ratdog at the beacon: guest review

i am so happy to post this guest review of the friday and saturday ratdog shows at the beacon last week. it goes without saying that my very good friend paul is a longtime deadhead. he has seen countless dead, garcia, ratdog, phil and dso shows over the years. but his musical interests go well beyond the typical dead spaces universe. now he's into exploring the world of new orleans jazz. sit back and enjoy his tour of these two show.


When I heard the first few notes of Playin’ in the Band to open the first set I knew that my ‘predictions’ were out the window. Energy level was HIGH (pun intended) as the crowd shrieked and danced in delight. Next up was a lively Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows (which Vince Welnick introduced into the GD’s repertoire in the mid-90s). Tennessee Jed is usually a sing-a-long but not to this degree with the audience screaming their all, which Bobby picked up on and screamed right back, once again affirming that magical symbiotic relationship between artist and audience. Up next Sitting in Limbo (a Jerry Band tune, ala Jimmy Cliff) that I had never seen Bobby do before; nice surprise but this was one of the tunes that Bobby "talked" the lyrics as he’s been doing the last few years; can’t blame the guy, he’s almost 60 and, unlike Phil, is the one and only singer in his band so it’s understandable that he has to give his vocal chords a break here and there. West L.A. Fadeaway was next, followed by 3 relatively new Ratdog tunes….Even So > October Queen > The Deep End. They sent us into the break with a SCORCHING Big Railroad Blues that left us in a sweat when the lights came on.

Bobby opened the second set, as usual lately, on acoustic guitar for the first 3 tunes. I felt that KC Moan was not a great song selection as it flew in the face of the momentum built up in Set One, but, hey, no one asked me! Next up was Dylan’s A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall on which Bobby proved he can really belt it out when he wants to which was nice to see, he really gave this one his all. For The Band’s The Weight he introduced Dana Fuchs, who looks a lot like Joan Osbourne, except taller, younger and thinner (please don’t tell Joan I said that;) Problem was her mike was dead, which she didn’t realize until it was well into the song. Bobby picked up on it and did the vocals until the very last verse when they finally fixed her mike. A nice jammy Eyes of the World followed.

Next up was the spectacle of the evening so it deserves its own paragraph…with 2 guest Sax players (George Garzone and Dog Yates) the band went into what everyone *thought* was Franklin’s Tower, until two young rappers strutted on stage! "What the **uc is this?" I thought, "what the hell is Bobby thinkin’!?" Well, it actually turned out to be the hit of the night! With a chorus of "Back to the River" the 2 rappers (Zacariah Mose and Chris Burger) with Ratdog behind them whipped the crowd into a frenzy! Although I dislike Rap and HipHop, (or so I thought:) even *I* was dancing in the aisle. Gotta give Bobby credit for stepping WAY outside his genre to showcase something current and undeniable.

Next up was Stuff, another new uneventful Ratdog tune. Dana Fuchs, with microphone working this time, came back out and shared vocals with Bobby on a sweet rendition of The Beatles’ Dear Prudence, which melted into a hard-driving China Cat > I Know You Rider (with guest keyboardist Dred Scott) which again left us in a nice sweat. Casey Jones encore closed out the night.

Overall, the setlist on paper doesn’t look outstanding, but the energy level of this show was off the charts! A good time was had by one and all, as evidenced by all the ear-to-ear grins on the way out of the Beacon.

[here is link to the setlist for the friday night show]


The show opened with a lively Jam > Help > Slip and just as the band was on the precipice of the expected Franklin’s Tower, they downshifted into a well-played, but mellow Maggie’s Farm (ala Dylan) and Row Jimmy. Had I been consulted beforehand these songs woulda been different;) Next up was a surprise first-set Dark Star(first half), slow, complex and jammed out, which led into a sweet and soulful, but with lots of umph, Weather Report Suite > Let It Grow (that I had been hoping for:) which ended the first set.

The first 3 tunes of the second set again found Bobby on acoustic guitar with You Win Again (a Pigpen song featured on Europe 72), City Girls (an old Bobby & The Midnights tune which he dedicated to some unnamed ladies in the audience) and Victim Or The Crime. All 3 were well played, but low energy as was the next number Lazy River Road. Jack Straw was the first lively tune of the second set (which finally got the crowd back into dancing mode) which lead into the second half of Dark Star which, again, was slow, jammy and floating on cosmic air. Stuff, another new Ratdog tune, was a sleeper into Days Between, a soulful Jerry tune which always manages to put a tear in my eye. Two Dijinn, another new Ratdog song followed, into Slipknot and then we finally got our Franklin’s Tower (that we had been expecting since the first-set opener) a rockin’ version to close out the second set. One More Saturday Night, hot and dance-inducing as always, closed out the night and this Beacon run.

Overall, while this show did have its enjoyable moments, the momentum was way too uneven and the frequent uneventful songs made it boring at times.

This show was the reverse of Friday night, in that it looks good on paper but was just so-so in person.

[here is link to the setlist for the saturday night show]

The timing of both shows were approximately the same:
1st set 8:15-9:40, 2nd set 10:20-11:45, encore 11:50-almost midnight.

Now that MSG has taken over management of the Beacon, security is much tighter and the pat-downs on the way in are intense and thorough.


paul, thanks for sharing this great pair of reviews! will see you in westbury for the dso show next month, if not sooner :)


CTmarathoner said...

Paul --what a great review. Not only are you an expert Rat Dog concert reviewer but a good writer as well...can only imagine the energy at the Beacon, having seen R.D. in Peekskill with Frank and our friend Rob. Tennessee Jed is one of my favorites -also like the sax. Franklin's Tower was a fitting ending to the second. I was bummed to miss these, as was out of town (but not as remiss as Frank)--looking forward to meeting you in May! My brothers are deadheads so maybe will join us.

Just_because_today said...

I finally get to read something other than running from you!!! I enjoyed it. Wish you posted some poetry (even though I hate poetry!)
I know I surprised you but I actually wrote a review on a race!

Take it running. I know you must be losing your mind (what mind?)

Zoooma said...


first things first -- thanks for the link to the Mets pics.

2nd things second -- good readin' here! For about an hour now I've had a Ratdoggie Dog show on before clickin' over here... a little bordering-on old school Ratdog from Fall Tour 1999. First Lady With A Fan and Let It Grow!

Then readin' these reviews -- niiiiiiiice! I don't like to be envious in this life but sometimes it's okay for a brief moment or two and I'm envious of the folks who got to enjoy these Beacon shows. Nice to read how great the tunes were and that a good time was had. Stoopid Weir -- skipping Alaska AGAIN. Oi. I'm gonna have to take a roadtrip this summer to see some shows; been way too long!

Well, thanks for the Good Readin'!

Happy Runnin', Garciya Later!

rundangerously said...


just like paul, i had a similar experience last year w/two back to back ratdog shows. the first, in peekskill, that ctmarathoner and rob also came to, bobby did a killer terrapin (only to be ruined by coming down into stuff) then did st. stephen, bridge, and the eleven!! one of the best second sets i've ever been too.

but the next night, at the beacon, ratdog was major let down. by itself, it would probably have been a good show. but compared to the previous night, it was really nowheresville.

rob said...

Nice review. Wish I had made it to one of the shows this time around. The Beacon is such a great venue. Would have loved to have heard "Dark Star". I saw them with rundangerously & ctmarathoner in Peekskill last year, and really enjoyed it (especially the 2nd set).