Ratdog heats up St. Augustine

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Ratdog
St. Augustine Amphitheatre
St. Augustine, Florida
July 19, 2009

Bob Weir and Ratdog visited the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine Florida, on a typical Florida Sunday afternoon: thunderstorms cooled the temperature off by ten degrees but raised the humidity by 20%, or so it felt.

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre was built in 1965 and remodels began in 2002. It was reopened to concert goers in 2007 with a capacity of nearly 4500 and on this night, there was almost a sold out crowd to see opener moe. and Ratdog perform.

rd1.jpgThe band came out and began the show as they nearly always do, with a nice mellow jazzy jam to warm up themselves and get the crowd grooving and anticipating what the opening song would be. During the jam there were many teases and then they broke into it, “The Main Ten”, as Mickey Hart labeled it on his Rolling Thunder recording, but known to most Deadheads as “Playin’ In The Band.” “Playin'” was first performed at the famous Port Chester, NY run in February 1971 and acted as a vehicle for many extended jams in the early to mid 1970’s and this version did not disappoint; it ran for over 18 minutes and gave each member of the band a chance to express themselves.

From there the band moved seamlessly into “Cold Rain and Snow,” which clearly pleased the crowd as a loud roar erupted as they all sang along. Jeff Chimenti’s work on the keys blended perfectly with Mark Karan’s guitar.

Next up was another crowd sing along favorite, “Silvio,” into The Champs’ “Tequila,” the Grammy-winning tune from the 50s revived years later by Pee Wee Herman.  From “Tequila” back into “Silvio” they went with Jeff Chementi’s piano leading the way.

“Althea” and “Lost Sailor” were next, and the interplay between Kenny Brooks and Mark Karan in “Althea” was a highlight of the song while the effects Bob Weir used on his guitar made it sound like some otherwordly instrument. The “Lost Sailor” was followed by “Saint of Circumstance,” apropos given the location of the venue – right next to the sea.

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Rain seemed to be a theme of the show: “Cold Rain and Snow” had already been played, “Saint” with its lyrics full of “rain fallin’ down,” and then came the acoustic “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” Bob’s voice was simply amazing and suits this song so well. Kenny Brooks’ baritone sax, which seemed almost as big as rd2.jpghe is, belted out those lower range notes that shake the insides of your soul.

Next up and keeping to the rain theme was “Looks Like Rain.” Still keeping the acoustic gear for this one, Bob sometimes struggled to hit those higher notes, but all in all delivered a fine vocal performance on a song that requires lots of vocal range. Once again Mark Karan’s guitar work and Kenny Brooks sax were standouts.

“Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo” followed, with moe. guitarist Chuck Garvey sitting in to add several nice leads, at times going head to head with Mark.

Since this was to be a two hour power set with no set break, the usual “Stuff” was replaced by a Jay Lane drum solo that really showcased his skills.

The rest of the band joined in towards the end with a nice jam that led into a spacy “Dear Prudence.”  Garvey was still on stage, which once again produced some great dualing solos with Mark Karan.

“Dear Prudence” led into the fourth Weir/Barlow tune of the night, “Throwing Stones,” always a crowd favorite to sing along to with the “ashes, ashes, all fall down” lyrics.  Karan played some of his best leads of the night during the number

There would be no encore, primarily due to the 10:30 PM local sound ordinance, so the last song was a rousing, rockin and rolling, “Johnny B. Goode” which had Bob growling out the lyrics.

Ratdog proved to be a tight unit who read each other well under the direction of the maestro, Bob Weir. Bob’s voice, after The Dead’s tour and 11 shows into this Ratdog tour, is holding out superbly and sounded just as great as ever.

 

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