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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2001/08/20
by Tony Toscano

Ratdog, Jones Beach Amphitheater, Wantagh, NY- 8/15

Ahhhhhh…....nothing beats a lovely night at the Red Rocks of the East, the
Jones Beach Amphitheater.
On a clear summer evening, with the sea breezes blowing around, Jones Beach is
truly a spectacular venue.
This was one of those crispy clear NY nights where you can see the stars and
their reflection, bounce off the water. This is truly a nice setting and I
have always liked Jones Beach, even though its "thuggish" and ridiculously
strict security measures (THREE searches before entering) could sour one on
the place (there was no sold-out show this night, in fact the place looked
to be only half-full).

The Bobster came out without any great fanfare, he just set up his
instruments, the rest of his bandmates did the same, and they proceeded to
noodle a bit, before starting on a little tuning jam, which evolved into "Weather Report Suite
Prelude!" WoW! Ya gotta love that! Nice job of it too, although (and this
was a problem the entire evening) the mix was horrible, IMO. Too heavy on
Bob and the sax/keyboard combo, while giving short shrift to Mark K. and the
rhythm section. If anyone from Weir’s crew happens to read this: TURN UP THE LEAD
GUITAR!!! Anyhow, the WRS proceeded along nicely, then Bob stepped up
to the microphone and sang "Wind and rain…." .......eliciting applause,
cheers and a good all around feeling. The entire Suite was performed, and
segued smoothly into "Let It Grow." It was a solid version, full of vocal power and
fury. It was good to hear that Bobby’s pipes are as strong as ever, and he sang with
clarity and conviction. Again, the jamming was good, but you couldn’t hear
the lead guitar well, as it was overwhelmed by the sax, so much so, that it
took a lot of the edge off. Too bad.

"Let It Grow" slowed down to a crawl, and a really nice and lilting jam became
"Dark Star." Yes! WRS->Dark Star! Shades of 1973 Dead! The Star jam
was nice, like those mellow jams the GD did in ‘ 73-’ 74. Bobby sang the
first verse, and then some more jamming, on that same mellow theme (I liked
it), however, five minutes does not a Dark Star make, so that was that. I
don’t know why they stopped, they could have kept the jamming going a little
longer, and let Mark play some leads, instead we got: "Red Rooster"....yawn. A
LOT of people cheered for this, I guess because they recognized it (BTW,
there were a LOT of young faces in the crowd, not that there’s anything wrong
with that, just an observation), but to me, this was no big deal. It’s one
of my un-favorite Dead covers of all time ("Walkin’ Blues" wins the prize in
that category), so we got the usual: verse, guitar solo, verse, sax solo,
slide solo, final verse. This brought the jam that started with WRS Prelude
to an end, as the band came to a complete musical halt.

The musicians huddled, somewhat, and began to spit out a few jams, one that sounded a lot like "New Speedway Boogie," but instead developed into "Truckin’," which got a HUGE response from the audience. Bobby managed to get through the song without messing up the words. Gasp, will wonders never cease? ;-) The light, however never came shining on us, the audience, as was customary when the Dead played the song. This looked and felt odd to me, and accentuated another flaw I noticed: a weak light show. Nuttin’ fancy here-just plain old lights, being bounced off what looked like ripped curtains, hung behind the band, in a "leafy" pattern. No big swirls encircling the audience, no kaleidoscopic patterns or fractals, this was the plain vanilla of light shows, IMO. Oh well…...Candace where art thou?

Back to the tunes…......."Truckin’" was nice, everyone sang along, and this
was the most festive part of the eve, so far. The vocals ended, and the
"Truckin’" jam began, but again, the lead guitar was so low, that you could not
hear it cleanly, producing a cacophony of sounds that was
jarring and unpleasant. My friend, who was sitting next to me, thought he heard NSB again, and so did I, but I was
secretly hoping for something really wild, "Nobody’s Fault But Mine" (Yeah,
OK…that was not exactly a realistic expectation). That would have been great, but
alas, we "only" got an "Estimated Prophet" that cooked along very nicely, yes
indeedy, and made my buddy Dan very very happy. The sax here was perfect,
this tune is so compatible with a sax solo, that it didn’t disturb at all.

Then, things started to slow down, after Bobby did a wee-little bit of his "rock star" act, coming forward towards the edge of the stage, and cocking his head back while strumming hard on his axe- you all know the move I’m talking about, dontcha? :). The "Estimated" wound down and down, leading us to play the guessing game once more…is he going to finally play NSB??? Nope! We got instead…......"The Wheel." First of all, let me preface this by admitting that I LOVE The Wheel-it’s such a "cosmic" tune, and holds such great memories for me, that it’s one of my all-time faves (I guess this was the YIN to Rooster’s YANG?:). "The Wheel" was a great surprise and a very cool selection. The band did a good job of it as well, cranking it up just to the right level, but keeping it mellow, like a good Wheel should be-nice and spacey.Rob Baracco (ex-Zen Trickster, current Phil & Friends keyboardist) joined the ensemble for this tune. I dug the hell out of this, and was up and dancing, along with the rest of the dancing fools (not that many, unfortunately). The Wheel stopped spinning, the band left the stage, leaving only Rob Wasserman, who did his "usual" bass "thing," along with DJ Logic, one of the opening acts. This contributed some new textures to this "standard" section.

Weir & Company returned to the stage to finish off the second verse of "Dark
Star," again, one of the shortest versions this writer has ever seen.
Stretch it out for a bit longer, and then this Star would have worked, as it’s fun to hear, of course, but the tune never took off. It
was a tease, big time. The Star melted away into a nice rendition of the
"Ashes and Glass." I like this song, and it was a good break from
what had been up until that time an all-GD set list. The show ended with the
1-2 punch of a "China-Rider" combo that was fun, if nothing else.
It didn’t break any new musical ground or anything, so I will just say that
it was a fun way to close the show. "China-Rider" was a rocking, bopping
delight, that had almost everyone up and dancing, and singing along at the
top of their lungs. Fun, fun, fun…but don’t look for musical gems or
exploration here.

And then…......the show ended. Finished. Kaput.
Finito! At 11:00 PM, sharply, the house lights came up and that was that.
Obviously they ran up against curfew but the lack of an encore left many in the crowd
disappointed (me included). A nice "Dupree’s" to send us home would have been nice, but this
was not to be. In summary then: I had fun, I danced, the weather was gorgeous, the stars
were shining, I heard a LOT of Dead tunes, and got to hang out with my
friends-an overall positive experience. But if you expect kick-down
the-doors jams from Ratdog, as we say here in New York: fuhgedaboutit!

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