Bob Weir & RatDog
July 2, 2014
Los Angeles, CA
Review By Shawn Perry
Photos by Bill "The Count" Harrity
With Furthur on hiatus, Bob Weir & RatDog are doing the rounds in 2014, picking up the second leg of their summer tour at the Greek in Los Angeles with Chris Robinson Brotherhood opening. Traffic in Los Angeles often dictates when someone reaches their destination; as far as making it to the Greek for the 6:30 start time, traffic won out. So, I missed out on Chris Robinson completely, rolling into the venue’s parking lot about 10 minutes after he finished his set. Fortunately, I didn’t miss out on Chris Robinson as completely as I thought.
Whenever the Greek Theatre hosts Grateful Dead related events, the parking lot is overflowing with vendors and wayward souls who still think (or wish) it’s 1993 — which always makes for a colorful and captivating evening after the show. As it was, getting into the show was a quick and easy task, and I was already safely seated and ready to groove when the lights fell and RatDog — Bob Weir on guitar and vocals, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, Steve Kimock on guitar, Jay Lane on drums, Robin Sylvester on electric bass and Rob Wasserman on upright bass — took their places.
After a five-minute warm-up jam to whet everyone’s appetites, “Feel Like A Stranger” emerged from the shadows and hung over the smoky crowd for a good 20 minutes before traversing into “Minglewood Blues.” I glanced around the Greek and noticed the last few rows in the back were closed off, plus a couple of sections on the left and right seating stands. They could have easily filled those seats, but for whatever reason they went unsold. That didn’t stop the music from traveling beyond the Greek and into the ears of those on the outside.
Weir’s references to LA in “Minglewood Blues” got the natives excited, while “It’s All Over Now” had everyone enraptured by the obvious tribute to the song’s author — the recently deceased Bobby Womack. Even Weir — at one time a close lookalike to Jerry Garcia, now a cross between Wilford Brimley and George Armstrong Custer — acknowledged the loss of the late singer and songwriter. But he still likes to play lots of Garcia’s songs, including “Mission In The Rain” from 1976’s Reflections album, which he sang effortlessly.
But before we would hear anything else written by Captain Trips, it was time for me to earn my keep with a special appearance by none other than Chris Robinson. It had a been a while since I’d seen the Black Crowes frontman, who looked a bit different with a hat and guitar. But when the first notes of “Hard To Handle,” the Otis Redding barnstormer both the Grateful Dead and the Black Crowes famously covered, rolled out and Robinson took a verse, set at a slow shuffle, that fateful sound of familiarity warmed the house. He also traded a few soulful lines with Weir on “Turn On Your Lovelight,” which also included basketball legend and longtime Deadhead Bill Walton on percussion. Not a bad way to end the first set.
After a break, RatDog returned to the stage at 9:45. Weir strummed his acoustic launch Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” always a favorite. On “Friend Of The Devil,” Weir stumbled over some of the lyrics (as he routinely does from time to time), but most of the crowd remained unfazed and in ecstasy.
The time for the band to really shine and stretch out came during “Playin’ In The Band” and “Terrapin Station.” Seasoned Deadheads are more than familiar with Steve Kimock, whose connections to the band stretch back to the 70s when he played with Keith and Donna Godchaux, and has since accompanied just about everyone who was in the Dead besides Jerry Garcia. He’s also had an in-and-out relationship with RatDog, so to see him in the driver’s seat tonight, ripping stylish leads within the desired spirit and intention of the music, was a sight to behold.
Chimenti continues to be the go-to guy for all things Dead, be it with RatDog or Furthur. He especially took charge during the “Lady With A Fan” interlude that leads into “Terrapin.” Wasserman, of course, stepped out for a short, entrancing solo. Together with Sylvester, the bottom end certainly had a lot more boom than usual. Lane, as always, kept the beat steady and sang a lot of back-up vocals.
A sweet version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” (Garcia would have been proud) and a joyful romp through “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” ended the second set. “Touch of Grey” was the encore with Kimock slaying it on the slide, and Weir and RatDog were done, plotting their next show in Santa Barbara on a summer tour that runs through September. After that, more dates, different projects — you never know what Bob Weir, with or without RatDog, will do next.