Monday, August 29, 2005

Ratdog Review

From the Post Standard:

Tuneful jam band works hard for fans
Monday, August 29, 2005
By Mark Bialczak Staff writer

When Bob Weir ambles onto the outdoor stage in his trademark shortish shorts and bare feet, it's without a doubt still summer in Syracuse.

The famous Californian led his latest band, RatDog, through a jam-happy set Sunday night at the state fair Grandstand. And to the crowd of 4,206, it was obvious that the outside party was a great chance to relive the greatness of Weir's original band, the legendary Grateful Dead.
From the first meandering strains of the opening song, fans seemed to breathe in a big gulp at once. Diehard Dead fans probably knew what the song was from the start. But as Weir and his guitar and his considerably talented band mates built slowly but surely to one of the Dead's most popular and recognizable tunes, the air got let out in a big cheer.

"Truckin' " it was, and truck the band and fans did for the rest of the night.
"What a long, strange trip it's been," they sang along on the opening cut.
From there on it was a dance fest, even through the less mainstream songs.
Fans broke off in small packs to dance in the spaces left open on the floor on both sides of the stage. The impromptu dance floors were right underneath the two big screens. Better for the dancers to keep track of the show as well as the beat.

Others stood at their seats and swayed. Hardly anybody sat except to take a load off every now and again.
The band worked hard the whole time. With Mark Karan on guitar, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, Kenny Brooks on saxophone, Robin Sylvester on bass and Jay Lane on drums, Weir's RatDog is a tuneful jam band.
Weir and his golden vocals undoubtedly led the way, but all appeared ready to make the time-tested break-ins and breakouts from song to song.

RatDog has more than a hundred songs on its concert-ready playlist, so fans like to be surprised.
Weir pulled out some cool ones, including the folk-country "Brown-Eyed Women" and spirited "Lucky Enough."
The coolest vibe, though, might have come with "Black-Throated Wind." Before the song, Weir suggested that everybody say a prayer for the opening band, The Neville Brothers, who were facing a return to their hometown of New Orleans, in danger from Hurricane Katrina.

Before the several generations of Central New Yorkers returned home into the pleasant summer night, the range of fans from kids to college students to 40-somethings to grandparents sang together on the classic "Not Fade Away." Weir won't do that, for sure.

The Neville Brothers never mentioned the threat of the hurricane to their beloved hometown.
Instead, singer Aaron, keyboardist Charles, saxophonist Arthur and drummer Cyril and their four band mates put out a lusty R&B set that paid tribute to the funky New Orleans sound they've helped make famous.
Jazzy and soulful, too, as they wove their songs like "Yellow Moon" with classics like "Love the One You're With" and "Thank U for Lettin' Me Be Myself," the brothers let the set crescendo with a robust, rolling "When You Go to New Orleans."


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