Last night was a wonderful evening. For the second weekend in a row, our friends watched our son for us so that we could go out on a date. I was very excited that our date was going to be an evening with Ratdog at the historic Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. This was our first time going to the Fitz, and I was excited to see what it looked like inside, although I was afraid that the seat description given to me when I ordered our tickets online would be way back in the balcony.
So we walked in a few minutes before the announced start time of 7:30 to get seated. The lady usher looked at our tickets and asked another usher to place us. He told us that our seats were these two loose seats...right up on the railing not more than 50 feet from the stage! Holy smokes, I tripped on that for quite a while, and smiled hugely! I gazed at the first level with some seats still vacant, but filling quickly as it got to 7:40. I started making a few notes in my notebook at 7:41, then the lights went out!
Ratdog took the stage and quickly got into a weird little jam. The first couple of minutes really didn't give me any clue. Then it started developing into a little sleazy funk, and I was pretty sure that they were going to break out into Shakedown....no, no, no, once the smoke of the opening jam finished, it was Feel Like a Stranger!
I always loved when the Dead started their shows with this. A long, long, crazy night this will be indeed. (I'm smiling again as I write this...)
After Stranger, they began Easy Answers. I've only listened to this song a couple of times, so it hadn't quite grown on me, and it started out a little slow and lazy. But as the song developed, Ratdog got into a cool groove in the middle of it. I said to myself that this is what it should be like. I was very pleased.
Bob Dylan's She Belongs to Me was next. Jeff played some nice piano in the middle of it.
Three songs in, I was digging the feel of the show. The band had a good energy, although their were not a lot of people dancing in the first balcony level. But I'm there on a mission, so my dancing continued. Then they brought it up another notch as they break into Walking Blues. Something went “Pop!” during that song, and I scribbled “Smokin!!!” I KNEW that the rest of the set would be fantastic.
And I was right. They played the always beautiful and jam-a-rific Crazy Fingers. Damn! That songs brings a glow to my heart and energy to my dancing. They finished that and went into Brown-Eyed Women. The audience went nuts when the “roof caved in and Delilah Jones went to meet her god.” That is a strange combination of devastating sadness and a rocking moment that leads to the rest of that great story.
They stopped for a few seconds and started Easy to Slip. This was the second time I've heard them play it live. I think it is a sweet song. Kenny's sax sounds very nice in last night's version. It is a gentle song with a slow buildup. They finished and went into the Supplication Jam! I wasn't expecting that, and it was great. But to top it off, they went out of Supplication back to the end of Easy to Slip! Wow!
The crescendo of the first set's energy was Big Railroad Blues. I was floored by this set and said to Melissa that they had brought their A game and that the second set should be fantastic.
A fellow fan came up to us after the set ended. He was disappointed that there wasn't much dancing on our level, and he noticed that a couple that had come to dance with us after they were asked to sit down when they began dancing in their seats. I found this shocking and sad. Anyways he said he would join us and the couple of other dancers back on our side after break. I said that would be great!
We took a break outside for about twenty minutes to cool off and feel the fall air. I stood outside with my jaw hanging open for a minute or two just reeling from that energetic set. I'm not good at guessing set lists, but I knew that second set would also be very good.
They started out with an acoustic version of El Paso. Melissa is pretty new to all this music, but recognizing this old standard, she got up with me and danced. Out of El Paso, Jay kept the drums going as Mark switched from acoustic to electric guitar. They played a heavy version of Dylan's Masters of War. Kenny's sax went very deep to emphasize the emotion. Bob reminded us to get out and vote!
The band went fully electric again after Masters to play Jus' Like Mama Said. This is new to the repertoire, and it was a good tune. Gerrit Graham, who penned Victim or the Crime, also wrote this.
Our new dancing pal tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what was next. It took me a good ten to fifteen seconds to realize it, but then I heard the intro to The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. The only other time I had heard this was at the Dead's Alpine Valley show in summer 2004. I love this song. I went off on a tear.
Out of TNK came the Sunday night special, Samson and Delilah. Could this get any better? The once slow dance section in the middle of the balcony was off dancing, too! What a great time!
Jay started drums out of Samson, and then the rest of the band, sans Bobby, contributed to the percussion. Bobby joined back in for “Stuff” before he quieted the band down for Ship of Fools.
Next was China Cat Sunflower followed by I Know You Rider. I didn't hear the “Wish I was a headlight verse” and I was slightly disappointed with that. However, the band and audience sang a capella “I Know You Rider, I will miss you when your gone.” The band left the stage!
I was grinning from ear to ear from such a special moment. They came back on, and we were singing it again. After a few repeats, the band finished the show with Touch of Grey.
I was so glad to be at such a good show. It has been 18 months since Spring tour '05 when I was at the Minneapolis and Chicago shows. I don't have a lot of free time for shows, and almost never have time to travel out of town for music, so I won't turn down an opportunity to see someone I love hearing so much.