RatDog (capital D, for some reason), has only played 36 shows this year, but have pulled out 162 songs, a record for any of the Dead/post-Dead bands. On the upside, it means you can listen to a whole tour and only hear a couple of repeats; on the downside it means Weir is going to forget some words. It comes with the territory.
That being said, they came out real strong in the first show of the tour, tight as ever. Help-Slip-Dylan is a common RD opener, but there were three dylan tunes in a row in the first set and two in the second (Maggie's>Baby Blue>Youngblood and Masters>Masterpiece). Weir plays even more Dylan than Garcia did. I haven't checked but I'll wager a buck.
The only vocal hicup was Take Me To The River (first time played in two years), which was consequently a bit lackluster.
The 16th was Weir's birthday which means two things: everybody sang Happy Birthday and the roadies brought out a great big birthday cake; and for the rest of the show, hippie chicks were screaming "Happy Birthday Bobby! Woooo!" at every opportunity.
Set II's Death Don't was really well done; that's one Dead tune they definitely do justice to. Two Djinn opened with a long boogie-woogie-freestyle solo by JC, who's been doing that for about a year (in addition to his traditional intro into Lucky Enough).
Stuff has evolved a bit recently, with Jay taking a drum solo. There have been drum interludes for a while now but an extended solo has only become a fixture this year.
The last surprise of the first night was a reprise at the end of the Franklin's closer. They've been tagging Saturday Night with a reprise for a couple of years and they did it to US Blues in Missoula in August; now Franklin's. I suppose they'll try it out with a few other tunes as well.
The second night in Upper Darby, PA, opened with TNK, on which there has recently been some doubling of the vocals by (I think) Jay. There was a short 2 or 4-bar transition jam between TNK and Playin', which is a first since they usually switch gears instantly.
Deep Elem was hard-driving and marked by a triple solo by JC. Killer.
Finally, something went down in the Brokedown encore I've never heard before. MK went for the solo before the last verse instead of after. Weir yelled at him "Woah" quite audibly. MK aborted and the band picked up on the verse without missing a beat.
I'm glad I bought the sbd (nobody posted the show) because you can hear Mark and Weir talking after the song: MK says "sorry, though I know I heard your intro [to the solo section]" to which Weir replied "You did, ...[indistinct]."
I guess there's no bad blood over it...
Next time: 2 Grand Ballroom shows in New York
PS: I happened to hear the Dead's '93 Cal Expo run. Really not bad at all. The last two shows are mashed up onto Road Trips Vol 2, no. 4.
Also, there is a video torrent floating around of the so-called "oops concerts" in Amsterdam in '81. The quality is pretty good, and the second night (another Weir birthday) has a real nice acoustic 1st set as well as a great Playin' and the only performance of Hully Gully.