Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bob Weir and RatDog at the Tabernacle

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Bob Weir at the Tabernacle Sunday night

Former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and his band RatDog played a sold out show at the Tabernacle Sunday night. The 66 year-old road warrior, wearing birkenstocks, capri pants and slick grey hair, seemed to be fully recovered from a couple of different incidents over the past few years which made people question his health and his ability to continue as a live performer. Weir, the Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist who was lovingly made fun of by deadheads much over the years for bringing a bit of cheesiness to the Grateful Dead experience co-wrote some Grateful Dead classics including, "Playing in the Band," "The Music Never Stopped," "The Other One," and "Cassidy," and his unique rhythm guitar style set the table for Jerry Garcia's guitar playing that defined the Grateful Dead sound. Weir started playing with Garcia in 1965 when he was just 17 years old and he has been on the road playing music ever since.

Weir and RatDog visited the Tabernacle on the last stop of their 23 show tour (their first full tour since 2009) and played for close to 3 hours. Their catalog is deep, they did not repeat a single song that had been played in their last five shows continuing the Grateful Dead tradition of playing original sets of music every live show.

RatDog came out with a strong seemingly improvised psychedelic introduction which quickly laid out the strength of the band which is its ability to take familiar songs in new musical directions. They jam. The current incarnation of RatDog includes, two bassists, original RatDog member Rob Wasserman on stand-up bass and Robin Sylvester on electric bass. Long time RatDog drummer Jay Lane returns to the fold after a hiatus with Primus, Jeff Chimenti plays keyboards, and Steve Kimmock on lead guitar, who wonderfully filled the void of Garcia's guitar on Grateful Dead songs that RatDog covers.

In silhouette Weir bears a striking resemblance to the late Jerry Garcia.
  • Joeff Davis
  • In silhouette Weir bears a striking resemblance to the late Jerry Garcia.

The opening psychedelic jam segued into "Help on the Way," with which the crowd erupted hearing the familiar song. "Help on the Way" while beautifully played had a much slower pace then Grateful Dead versions that combined with Weir's monotone singing of a poetic song traditionally sung with Garcia's emotional rendition immediately showed the vocal flaws of RatDog. Too much Weir vocals, every song is sung by him which works on classic Grateful Dead Weir-sung tunes like Little Red Rooster, which was the highlight of the first set, but falls flat on tunes that were once handled exclusively by Garcia. Weir's singing of Garcia vocals can be jarring to long time deadheads who found the pull of Garcia's vocals over lyricist Robert Hunters poetry the essence of the Grateful Dead experience. In post-Garcia Grateful Dead life it seems that Garcia's shoes can be filled on guitar by any number of imitators (Warren Haynes in the reincarnated Dead tours and more recently by John Kadlecik, who played the Garcia roll in Further with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh) but his heart wrenching vocal renditions which gave the Grateful Dead their soul, have yet to be matched.

But the magic still exists says Patricia Audie who took a break from being a hospice nurse in Portland, Maine to follow RatDog's tour seeing eight of the 23 shows. The 55 year old registered nurse, who estimates she has helped more then 100 people "transition through the end of their lives," while making sure "they are not afraid," was positioned in the center of the general admission front row enjoying the festivities. "Its rejuvenating," she said about RatDog shows, "It helps me keep in balance... the music fills me up it makes me feel alive and connected."

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