Wish I were going to a show! Oh well, soon enough RD3 will be playing at the adorable (It's really small and very cute) 142 Throckmorton Theatre!
An interesting and sparkling NEW article on Mickey Hart-
Bob Weir and RatDog keep the Grateful Dead spirit alive
by Ben Horowitz/The Star-Ledger
Friday November 14, 2008, 4:31 PM
Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead performs at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. during a benefit concert.
Bob Weir and his band, RatDog, are doing an effective job of keeping the Grateful Dead's legacy alive, or at least, one side of his old band's legacy.
The Dead had two main sides: There was the psychedelic, spacey, experimental Dead, the king of the jam bands; and there was the tight yet imaginative group that produced and performed a number of timeless, well-crafted roots-rock songs.
Weir, the Dead's rhythm guitarist whose rich baritone made him the band's most natural singer, thrived in the latter setting. So it was no accident that Wednesday night's concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark achieved its most powerful moments when Weir and RatDog focused on the songs, and didn't go overboard with the jamming.
With the Dead, Weir sang lead on about half the songs. Today, at 61, he sings lead on every song. His booming voice was fully intact Wednesday not only on his own songs, but on strikingly credible versions of such chestnuts as "Brown-Eyed Women" and "Cold Rain and Snow" that were sung by the Dead's legendary lead guitarist, the late Jerry Garcia.
RatDog's lead guitarist, Mark Karan, is a solid player, but he's no Garcia. Karan does a respectable job of exploring Garcia's high, darting flights of fancy on guitar, but RatDog, for the most part, couldn't reach the sonic instrumental heights of the Dead. So that side of the Dead didn't fully come across.
The opening song, an 18-minute "Truckin,'" was a good example. The number began as a casual yet engaging jam that evolved into this Dead favorite. The band hit a danceable groove for the song itself, and the crowd, which didn't need much encouragement, was pumped for the evening. But when the verses ended, Karan and the band went into a purposeless jam that was at least five minutes too long.
Fortunately, that didn't become a pattern. During two sets of music that clocked in at a generous 2 hours and 45 minutes, the only other needless jam came when RatDog attempted to parallel a Dead concert with "Stuff," an instrumental break centered on a drum solo that came midway through the second set.
But the highlights outweighed the low points. A lively, fun-loving rendition of Bob Dylan's "Silvio" seamlessly integrated Kenny Brooks' saxophone solo on "Tequila," delighting the crowd.
Three songs that originated with RatDog showed the six-man band has something to offer of its own. Particularly noteworthy was "Bury Me Standing," a slow, funky, mysterious number abetted by tension-building flourishes from the sax.
RatDog finished the first set in style with a snappy, rousing "Greatest Story Ever Told" that segued into a euphoric "Scarlet Begonias" on which Karan's guitar solo was just right.
An attention-grabbing, acoustic "Me and Bobby McGee" kicked off the second set with authority. And the band pulled itself out of the "Stuff" jam to end the concert on a high note. A stripped-down, atmospheric "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" led to an exhilarating set-closer, a no-holds-barred rendition of the Dead/Weir show-stopper, "Sugar Magnolia."
For its encore and final song, RatDog chose a moving ballad, "Brokedown Palace," a song Garcia co-wrote and sang for his mother after she died. Weir sang the song back to Garcia, showing his respect and affection for his mentor ("Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell").
The song sent the Deadheads, young and old, exiting the elegant building in a mellow, reflective, satisfied mood.
Ben Horowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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