By: Jeff Miers
For: The Buffalo News
It’s such a privilege, sometimes, to go to a show such as Sunday’s and then be able to write about it. Musicians as good as those gathered on stage at Darien Lake for the Rat- Dog/Allmans gig are an absolute pleasure to watch and listen to.
When they take the time to listen to each other, and let the music take an organic form, and live and breathe, the audience member feels like a lucky soul. Sometimes music can transport us to a better place. This night at Darien, with a full house along for the trip, it did that — over and over again.
What does one say about RatDog now? The band, under Bob Weir’s leadership, has become an ensemble on par with the Dead, which gave it birth. Even with guitarist Mark Karan out battling throat cancer, and newcomer Steve Kimock still “the new guy,” RatDog played one of the most moving sets of music it has ever played in our neck of the woods. That’s saying something, if you’ve seen the bands at the Town Ballroom over the last four years.
The band opened with “Here Comes Sunshine,” morphed fearlessly into Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” found a smooth segue into “Loser” and had no trouble finding a sort of psychedelic blues groove for “Money for Gasoline.”
Things got very interesting during “Loose Lucy,” as Weir made it plain that he’d come to leave some blood on the stage. His singing during this tune was both raucous and invigorated. Strapping on an acoustic for the latter-period Dead tune “Victim or the Crime,” Weir was stunning, his Keith Richardsesque rhythm guitar comping laying the foundation for a transcendent Kimock solo.
This all rolled sweetly into “Half-Step Mississippi Uptown Toodle-oo,” which the band tore into with a ravenous bite. “Samson and Delilah,” from Terrapin Station followed, and it was Reverend Gary Davis taken to the Chicago juke joint on a Saturday night. “Sugaree,” “Dark Star,” “Terrapin Flyer” and “Touch of Grey” — what more could anyone want?
Seeing the Allman Brothers Band after this first performance almost made one feel spoiled. Could it get better? Well, it’s not about better, it’s about different, and the AB Band took the blues all over the map, stopping in India, Africa, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, and frankly, the moon a few times. It can’t get better than this, in terms of musical interchange in the broad “rock” world.
“Revival” kicked it all off, and was beautifully sung by Gregg Allman, Marc Quinoines and guitarist Warren Haynes. Haynes took the first solo, and it was fantastic, a blend of old blues and some forward-looking cross-genre stuff. Then Derek Trucks played. Words haven’t been invented yet to describe the level that this guy is playing at. Suffice it to say that he’s the greatest living electric guitar player.
The Allmans gave us “Statesboro Blues,” “Midnight Rambler,” “The Sky is Crying,” and a stunning interpretation of the Miles Davis/Joe Zawinul tune “In A Silent Way,” which morphed into “Mountain Jam,” and featured Trucks and Haynes trading choruses with RatDog’s Kimock. Again, one felt privileged to be hearing musical interaction on this level.