Saturday, November 22, 2008

RatDog review: Classic rock a refreshing change for local audience


In my 15 years in Southwest Florida, I don't think I've ever used the word
"face-melter" to describe a concert -- mostly because concerts here are
never as musically adventurous and fierce as what the sold-out crowd at
Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall experienced last night.

Long before Bob Weir - the rhythm guitarist for the Grateful Dead and now
frontman of RatDog - plucked his first guitar string, any local resident
could tell that this show was going to be unlike any other in the long
 history of Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.

Hours before the 8 p.m. start time, the west-side parking lots began filling
up with fans from all over the southeast who, like Deadheads, have followed
RatDog from show to show. Vendors selling glass pipes, T-shirts emblazoned
with the famous Grateful Dead skull and Jerry Garcia lined rows and rows of
cars while the music of the Grateful Dead blarred from car speakers.

Some fans were still stuck in their work suits while others in dreadlocks
and carrying the aroma of patchouli, pot and body odor scrambled for tickets
and other concert "necessities" like beer, weed and nitrous oxide. In fact,
you couldn't weave your way through the parking lot crowds without seeing
someone carrying a balloon.

Yes ... The circus was in town last night and it only got better as the
night wore on.

Inside the refined Mann auditorium, concert tapers with microphones and
recording equipment set up while the Deadheads in their tie-dyes waited
patiently for the band to take the stage and when they did, not a soul was
sitting for entire three hour performance that spanned each era of the
Grateful Dead's history.

The concert kicked off with a groovy jam that found its way into the
Grateful Dead's "The Music Never Stopped." When Weir launched into the
lyrics "There's a band out on the highway, They're high steppin' into town
It's a rainbow full of sound, It's fireworks, calliopes and clowns," I
couldn't help but this event was a welcome departure from the ho-hum acts
that usually play Southwest Florida.

With fans wiggle-dancing and using their hands to follow the music, Weir and
RatDog spent the next 15 minutes covering Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" and
"She Belongs to Me" before delving into the first Jerry Garcia song of the
night, a bopping version of "Loose Lucy."

The 1 1/2-hour first set ended
with a rockin version of "Hell In a Bucket" with Weir, now fully gray,
screaming into the mic, "At least I'm enjoying the ride ... ride ...ride"
while saxophonist Kenny Brooks wailed.

The second set -- always the special set for the Grateful Dead -- also held
true with RatDog. Weir started things off acoustically with one of the
Dead's earliest numbers "Stealin'" before bringing the tempo down a bit with
a pretty version of "Friend of the Devil." Psychedelia took over with Weir's
"Victim of the Crime" and didn't skip a beat before taking on the reggae-ish
"Estimated Prophet."

With everyone still standing, the slow beginning notes of "Terrapin Station"
wafted through the theater culminating in a massive sing-along with the
crowd screaming the lyrics, "inspiration, move me brightly ... Light the
song with sense and color, hold away despair ...

Continuing the epic song Weir delivered the lines, "In the shadow of the
moon" while crowd screamed back "terrapin station."

"And I know well get there soon," Weir cried out.

"Terrapin station," the dancing crowd shot back before the band once again
delved into a Garcia favorite, "Sugaree."

The second set ended with Weir's barnstormer, "Sugar Magnolia" -- a song
that had people dancing from the front row to the very back.

And if that wasn't enough RatDog concluded with night with a song the Dead
only played on an album -- never live, the complex "At A Siding" which
featured sax man Brooks blazing, and lead guitarist MarK Karan with his down
making sure every not was hit just exactly perfect.

For those locals who were there last night, this will be one local show they
won't soon forget. The band was tight and those from outside the area
praised the theater and its staff. Here's to hoping we get more of this kind
of adventurous music and less Englebert Humperdicnk in the future.

Ever consider what goes into creating a logo?
Check out Jamie's blog about recreating the Head Count logo for 2008 at her blog