:: Ratdog ::
:: August 30 :: Chautauqua Auditorium ::
:: August :: The Botanical Gardens ::
By Brandon Daviet
Many people that read The Marquee may have the impression that I’m the magazine’s resident “metalhead.” While that’s partly true the fact is I’m also a devout “Deadhead” so when the chance came for me to cover Ratdog’s two Colorado’s appearances, both at venues the band has never graced before, I relished the opportunity.
For my money Ratdog is the next best thing to the late, great Juggernaut known as the Grateful Dead. I’ve always seen Bob Weir as a loyal second-in-command to the late-Garcia and really have felt that his immense talent was sometime overshadowed by Garcia’s greatness. Ratdog’s lone studio album, 2000’s Evening Moods, ranks up their with the best of The Grateful Dead’s studio excursions like Built To Last, Terrapin Station and of course Workingman’s Dead, in my humble opinion. I understand I may be in the minority with that opinion, it seems most fans want to constantly relive the glory days of Jerry Garcia’s messianic reign, and really that’s not always bad — a little closed minded maybe but not bad. In fact, it seems that Weir himself has firmly grasped what the majority of “Deadheads”, new and old, want and that without question was what Ratdog’s two 2009 Colorado shows were all about.
To exemplify that, only one song, the excellent rave up “Corrina,” off of Ratdog’s aforementioned album was performed at Boulder show. The rest of Ratdog’s two-night stand consisted of paying tribute to The Grateful Dead’s astounding wealth of amazing songs.
With that let’s starts with the Boulder show. The show — one long set due to curfew issues — was the textbook definition of a “barn burner.” (If you have seen a show at Chautauqua you’ll appreciate the reference.) There was no denying the joy of the crowd when Ratdog faithfully broke out Garcia mainstays like “Candyman” and “Black Peter.” In addition, Weir also treated the crowd to selections from his on cannon like “Easy to Slip” and the always raucous and appropriate “I Need a Miracle” The highlight of the evening for me was easily the set closer “Touch of Grey.” For one I proudly am what long time fans refer to as a “Touch Of Greyer” as I came to be a fan of the Grateful Dead around the time “Touch of Grey” made the billboard charts, but beyond that, the song lyrically represents some of the band’s (or, if you want to get technical, Robert Hunter’s) best work. That said I left the first show wondering how exactly Ratdog could top it the next night in Denver.
The fact is they didn’t. The Boulder show was the best, but the Denver show, not surprisingly, had its own charm. First The Botanical Gardens is a great place for a concert and both venues, just like for Ratdog, were a virgin experience for me as well. That said the evenings mood (pun intended) was substantially more subdued, perhaps because of the zip code, perhaps not, and the bands set list reflected it. There were few straight up rockers as Ratdog stuck to slower tempo songs with more depth like the killer “Terrapin Station” followed by and equally moving “Standing on the Moon.” In fact, the only really get-up-and-dance songs were a well received “Johnny B. Goode” and a “Playin in the Band Reprise” that finished what the band had started the night before. A mellow “Ripple” closed out the show, and for all intents and purposes another Colorado summer as the crowd filed out with large, “perma-smiles” plastered on their faces.
What Ratdog proved over the two shows is that the Grateful Dead created their own post-nuclear family “American songbook.” And it is a songbook that still holds up amazingly well today; proving the axiom We Will Survive!