Ratdog, 4th & B, San Diego, CA- 2/4
Ratdog hit the road again for a short swing through So Cal and Arizona. The mini-tour included an invite-only party at the 4th & B Tuesday night. Unfortunately, I was not on the invite list, and would have to wait until they let in the paying patrons when the band returned to the stage Saturday. The club sold out just before the show opened, and eager Dead/Family fans were anticipating a good boogie this evening.
I wondered how the band would mesh without Bob Weir’s close collaborator Rob Wasserman, and was curious to see the multi-talented Rob Barraco would handle bass duties. We grabbed a Sam Adams, and picked a spot on the floor in front of the soundboard. The lights dropped, and the boys hit the stage, led by the salt-&-pepper bearded Weir. A bit of tuning led into a warm-up jam to shine the rust off the strings, and Feel Like a Stranger got the evening into gear. Barraco was playing what looked like a six string bass, and blended into the rhythm nicely. Stranger led into a very-much appreciated Queen Jane, and the crowd was in fine form singing the lyrics with Bobby. Barraco kept his focus on the bass strings, and I wondered if he would get a chance to cut loose, ala Phil or Schools or Claypool. Queen Jane led to Easy Answers for a bit of vocal harmonizing, and then led into the Jerry-Band staple Mission in the Rain. A little slide work made an appearance next through Walkin’ Blues, and Bobby proved he could still belt out the words with vocal force. Jeff’s keys and Kenny’s sax selections were making for great musical undertones as well. Back into Jerry territory with Loser, and again the crowd was harmonizing with every word. The band stepped back for a quick tune, and a rousing Big Boss Man brought some of Barraco’s bass to the forefront in a workmanlike fashion. This led into a Stranger reprise/jam, and into Eyes of the World for the set-ender. I took a look around at the crowd on the floor, on the mezz, and balconies, and not a body was sitting down. I think I actually saw Bobby smile briefly as he looked out to the crowd! We only get to see that now and again, or when he drops the occasional word/line and points to the sky to take it from the top.
Break time meant a trip outside for some air, and a trip for another Sammy and a bottle of water. Set break seemed a bit lengthy, but they always do I guess. The lights dropped again, and Bobby and Rob hit the stage with acoustic guitars. Time for some Blackbird and Friend of the Devil, where Mark joined in. Very soulful, crisp, and much appreciated. Black Throated Wind brought out Jay, and then all joined in on stage. Black Throated finished, and the familiar semi-crashing opening chords on Help on the Way got the crowd into a serious shimmy again. This would show Rob Barraco’s prowess on the bass, with all the transitions and segues in Help-Slipknot-Franklin’s. Help on the Way progressed into the anticipated Slipknot for a bit of jamming, and the bass chords leading us from Slipknot! to Franklin’s began, but an unanticipated musical transition left most of us with one foot in the air. A Space-ish jam broke out, and led into a familiar song that I couldn’t quite find the title to until the chorus: Born Cross-Eyed! Now that was a good surprise and made up for no Franklin’s. BCE became She Says, then jam then Corrina. Bobby really looks like he has a blast leading the band and fans through Corrina. As momentum began to slow down, out comes Slipknot again into our Franklin’s Tower we were all waiting for to close the set.
Seems like everybody was betting on Saturday Night for the closer. Right on cue, the band came out and led the crowd on one more journey through Saturday Night. The song ended, and the requisite band-group hug sent all home with good memories from a good show.
Rob Barraco certainly impressed the crowd with his skills on the bass, playing almost in a rhythmic effort, blending in to the rest of the band very well. While some stand-up bass (Wasserman style) is always nice, Rob certainly played bass like he had played for years, and he probably has off stage. All in all, it was great show and the crowd certainly will anticipate a visit by the newly defined The Dead to San Diego in the summer. ((The 4th & B is the perfect size for a show like this, with room for around 1000 people. However, the acoustics could use some improvement, as the upper speakers are too close to the roof and tend to muddle out the sound. Gov't Mule about brought down the ceiling back in October when Haynes, Schools, Abts, Porter, Rzab and Johnson were in full swing.))