I: Jam > Truckin > Loose Lucy > Loser > Walkin Blues, Ramble On Rose, Catfish John*+ > West L.A. Fadeaway*+
II: City Girls@, Desolation Row@, Shade of Grey > Hell in a Bucket > The Other One > Stuff > Ship of Fools > Sugar Magnolia E: Brokedown Palace
*-with Mookie Siegel (Keys/Accordion); +-with Bill Kirchen (Guitar);
I had last seen Ratdog back in 2006, during the period before Mark Karan’s illness. I thought the late 2006/early 2007 shows were the band’s post-Wasserman peak. They were bringin’ it. That experience, plus the hype for a biggie to celebrate their 800th show, sent me in with high expectations. It would be too much to say I was disappointed, but the bottom line is the show was good but not great.
First set took a while to hit a stride. There were low-intensity patches in some typically intense songs (Truckin, Walkin Blues) that had me and buddy joking about delivering coffee to the stage. But the gears caught on Ramble On Rose, with a wailing Karan solo and some very tasty piano from Jeff C. The song built and built until “that energy” was in the room at last. It held when Mookie and Bill Kirchen came out for a hot Catfish, featuring Mookie’s organ. Then the highlight of the night came by accident, during a tight, funky West LA, when Kenny missed the cue for his sax solo. Bobby reached out and tapped him on the shoulder, but into the gap Bill Kirchen started to solo instead. He ripped it up!! I had never seen him before and he is amazing. The crowd was roaring so loud I thought we were going to tear loose the tape from the new drywall in the remodeling Rams Head. They rode that wave until it broke and walked off. I thought “OK, now we’re there – this is going to be a great one.”
But it was a case where the Ratdog standard format of starting 2nd set acoustic can hurt them. City Girls and Desolation were sweet versions, but “that energy” was lost on the way. Shade of Grey brought it back – very tight version. Jay’s drumming during the “out in the street…” sections pushed them back up and I thought they were going to catch fire again. But then Bob butchered the lyrics to Bucket so badly that the spark dimmed and wasn’t found again. In Other One I couldn’t tell whether they were trying for a trippy version, a pounding version or what. They wandered around in between and didn’t get anywhere, cutting off after the 2nd verse like they were glad to be out of it. The rest of the set didn’t have flaws to speak of but it was just OK renditions of great material. It’s baseball season so I thought of that kind of unconvincing win that drags in the later innings. A slow-working bullpen gets it done but never feels in command of the game.
Notes: Nice to see Mark Karan in good health. Nice to hear Bob in pretty good voice at 60, singing “…with all these years upon my head, to have you call me child.”
Sorry that it wasn't a stellar show for ya. But Bill kirchen's playing had to be a treat. I've seen him with his band (Too much Fun) a few times. He's great; he used to play with Commander Cody ("Hot Rod Lincoln").
I'd love to hear that Catfish John and West L.A. with Bill Kirchen. I used to watch him every Tuesday at the Sunset Grill in Annandale, Virginia with Too Much Fun for $2 and wonder why I was dropping $30 and up on early '90s Grateful Dead shows. He was always real personable. Literally introduced me and my friends to his mom one night at a show at Whitey's. A couple of months ago, I unexpectedly saw him and Mookie as the opening act for a Nick Lowe solo show I saw out here in Seattle. While Nick never emerged from backstage, I got to say hey to Bill who came out to sign cds at the merch table. Same down to earth guy. And still tearing it up. I always thought Bill would be an inspired choice as a Friend of Phil's.
Love to hear it? Happy to burn you a copy and mail it. E-mail me your physical addy and it will come in time.
My RDLive skips a bit at the start of the first disc, but otherwise sounds good.
Ooh! I'd love one of those..., any chance?
Oops -- forgot I was talking about a purchased recording, not a free 'n legal. So distribution isn't legit. Sorry for the teaser.
No problem. Thanks anyway!