Bob Weir and RatDog, Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO- 7/12
Photo by Larry Hulst
Bob Weir and RatDog closed-out the current leg of their latest tour with a powerful three-hour concert in front of a packed house at Denver’s Ogden Theatre July 12.
The band opened with the “The Music Never Stopped,” with guitarist Steve Kimock’s unique phrasing and pointed leads filling the gaps between Weir’s counter-punctual riffs and Jay lane’s minimal but expressive drumming. This segued into to “Easy Answers,” an oft-maligned song that’s developed since it first appeared as late-career Grateful Dead staple. The ominous tune built on duel bassists Rob Wasserman and Robin Sylvester’s solid rhythms, taking the song to a rousing crescendo. The highlights of the first set were the long, swirling jams connecting “Don’t Let Go” > “Scarlet Begonias” and “Ashes and Glass,” which had the crowd undulating and swirling under the minimal but effective house lights.
RatDog’s original line-up of drummer Jay Lane, Wassermann and Weir, kicked off set two with a mournful “Peggy-O,” the only acoustic song of the night, before keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, Kimock and Sylvester returned to the stage to join them on a long visit with “St. Stephen.” Next up were “The Eleven” > “The Other One” > “Stuff” and “Morning Dew,” followed by the raucous set closer, “Not Fade Away.” The song list for set two may seem short, but each tune was connected by long exploratory jamming that at times sounded like a melodic cyclone of sound, with each band member taking the lead throughout the wash before Weir directed the band into the next tune. Sylvester dropped roof-cracking bombs during what could arguably be said to the be most intense “The Other One” this reviewer has ever seen Ratdog perform.
Kimock and Weir are a potent combination: standing side by side throughout much of the second set, they demonstrated the skill and control the band possesses. Some detractors have labeled Ratdog as “sluggish,” but they miss the point: the tempos of the songs are indeed sometimes slowed to a crawl, but this allows the band to uncover new musical crags and crevices, taking the audience to on a joyous psychedelic musical journey.
RatDog encored with a “Not Fade Away” reprise, an expected “One More Saturday Night,” and a gorgeous “Brokedown Palace.”
Bob Weir and RatDog occupy a unique, almost “Dylanesque” niche on the touring scene these days. Certainly no one sounds like troubadour Bob Dylan, and no other band sound like Bob Weir and RatDog. Just like the Grateful Dead, RatDog is not only the best at what they do, they’re the only ones who do what they do. For the hundreds of dancing fans at the Ogden Theatre, this was definitely considered a good thing. Kudos must be given to the seventh member of the band, the unseen sound engineer, who helped produce an incredible show.