House of Blues
November 16, 2007
Bob Weir hit 60 this past October, but he’s not slowing down. From his work with the Board of Directors of voter advocacy group HeadCount to his constant touring; Weir is still showering old and new fans with Grateful Dead covers and handfuls of originals.
Weir and his band RatDog visited the House of Blues in Orlando recently for a classic set that showcased the band’s ability to take fans on a journey through rock’s best times. The sold out crowd of Deadheads and young admirers started off right with "Help is on the Way" into "Slipknot!" and then a brief tease of "Franklin ‘s Tower."
Steve Kimock, substituting for Mark Karan who was absent due to his battle with throat cancer, was an excellent match for Weir’s harmonic venture into the various worlds of jazz, blues, rock and bluegrass. After a psychedelic cover of the Beatles’ "Tomorrow Never Knows" the first set picked up the tempo with a seamless transition to blues rock favorite "Even So." Saxophonist Kenny Brooks nailed the song with his rip roaring horn.
Bobby released his trademark howl to the fans’ delight as the band sunk into "October Queen." Two crowd members simultaneously let out a yell of "That’s classic Bobby!" as Weir crooned "And I know it’s gonna be one hell of an evening/Just like the year before, and the year before, and the year before." You could almost close your eyes and transport yourself back to the days of the Fillmore West, especially during the first set thanks to a lot of crowd participation. The crowd sung along to "Loser" and laughed with Weir as he forgot some of the lyrics to "Brown-Eyed Woman."
The second set seemed mellow compared to the first. Weir started out playing acoustic with "Been All Around this World," "Me and My Uncle," and "The Weight." The thing about Weir and RatDog is there is no need for pretense. No need for grand decorative explosions of song or loud outfits. It is the music that carries you to some fantastical place from the past or whatever it is you dream of. That is why fans travel the world to follow RatDog.
The night’s version of "Big Railroad Blues" was one of the funkiest moments of the night. It released the crowd’s pent up energy, and got them to dance and unwind a little. It was a privilege to witness Bobby break into “The Days Between.” There was a melancholy air to the song, and a respectful reminiscence as he sang, "the blue of yet another day/a springtime wet with sighs/a hopeful candle lingers/in the land of lullabies."
As the encore came and Kimock and Weir focused in on a “Two Djinn” jam you couldn’t help but wonder why Kimock still would not face the crowd. The entire night he stared right at Weir, not once turning to the masses to show off his skills. Perhaps he was just that focused on the next move Weir would make.
The night came full circle with “Franklin’s Tower.” Usually, the band would play it just after “Slipknot!” Instead they sandwiched the whole concert in between the song. Hopefully the genre-bending talent of Ratdog will continue to stroll on for quite some time to come.