Bob Weir and RatDog, Palace Theatre, Albany, NY-11/3
If you have ever been in a situation that gives you a compelling sense of “familiarity,” “eeriness,” or just plain “weirdness” then you may have experienced D vu. I found myself in this particular state on November 3, when I attended Bob Weir and RatDog at Albany’s Historic Palace Theatre. It has been 1 year to the day since RatDog played the Palace, and things are eerily similar as I stand under the sparkling marquee lights while freaks pack the dark sidewalks and streets along the theatre.
Outside the spirit is as vibrant as ever. Signs reading “SOLD OUT!” appear on the front of the theatre doors. Inside, colorful characters mingle around the lobby; swarming beer lines and conversing about the shows opener. The band takes the stage a little after 8 p.m. to a theatre brimming with a crowd of over 2,800 heads. A short introductory jam quickly morphs into an ear catching “Lady with a Fan > Terrapin Station.” The surprising first notes of one of the Grateful Dead’s most beloved songs conjure up a large freak call from the crowd.
There is no looking back now, as Bobby has thrust us right in the middle of an elegant, yet intense beginning too the night's performance. The addition of Steve Kimock in the absence of Mark Karan (get well soon Mark!) has really seemed to dictate the direction of each shows set list by mixing in more of Garcia’s work, not to mention, adding a jammier vibe to the usually more blues-based ensemble.
A brief intro jam shifts into a fast tempo “All Along the Watchtower,” then to a slow, rhythmic “Lazy River Road” and a repeat from last year with the boot-taping Pigpen staple “Big Boss Man.” At this point, the band changes modes by diving into the Ratdog catalog, pulling out a mix of the band's originals in “Even So > October Queen > The Deep End.” The end of the set, however, finds them breaking back into the Dead vault with a classic version of “Eyes of the World.”
In between sets, the crowd outside is buzzing with excitement and anticipation over what they have heard and what is still to come. The break is short lived, and before I know it, I find myself stumbling down the dark crowded aisles while Bobby coos the tragic love song “Peggy-O.” “Corrina,” ensues, followed by an intense combination of “Estimated Prophet > The Other One > He’s Gone.”
Bobby disappears off the stage for his usual in-set break, leaving Ratdog to explore the depths of a freebased jam. A few moments later, the bearded hipster strolls back out on stage and greets us with “Days Between,” the first time the band has ever performed the song. And if this was not enough, the band found their way back into “At a Siding > Terrapin Flyer” to close out the show.
Following a raucous take on the Chuck Berry-esque “One More Saturday Night," pure emotion shakes the foundation of the theatre from top to bottom as the band comes together to take their final bow. Under the bright lights Bob Weir and RatDog stand one year removed from their previous performance at the Palace. All sensations of D vu have escaped me now, and in its place, is the lasting impression that this night would be one to remember, but never to be relived.