Keller Williams, Ratdog, and The Allman Brothers = Guitar Fest!

On August 18th, 2007 at the Tweeter Center in Camden, the sounds of powerful guitar combinations took center stage. Most people who love music equate the summertime with sitting on blanket on a lawn or dancing barefoot on the lawn of an amphitheater and enjoying the fruits of their favorite bands. This is what this show represented for a lot of people. These musicians have been staples to our scene for years, and for the most part, they haven't missed a beat.

Keller Williams came on first to warm up the crowd with his happy-go-lucky unique style of musicianship. Keller has been pleasing crowds since his inception to the scene while opening for the String Cheese Incident for years. His self taught improvisation has been in the forefront of his success through this past summer while touring with Ratdog. Together with this lineup he continued his magic with the following setlist:

???, Stupid Questions, Life, Restraint, Shinjuku, Freaker by the Speaker, Dogs, Freshies, Cadillac*, Dark Hollow*

The highlight from the set was the visit on stage by legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. They finished the set with "Cadillac" just like they did at the Greek Theatre, followed by the bluegrass classic "Dark Hollow."

Ratdog came on next, and Bob Weir came on stage with his burly beard and his 80's looking shorts, which was a tad bit of foreshadowing as to what was to come. The new addition that I was looking forward to hearing was Steve Kimock's presence on the guitar. His west coast guitar style was what I thought would make him a perfect fit for the show. Kimock would be sitting in for his good friend Mark Karan during his treatment for throat cancer through this tour. These two have been jamming with Dead members since the 1998 The Other Ones tour, so I knew what I'd be hearing would be familiar.

The opening song, which really never ended because of the one song into the next routine, was "Jam" > "Women Are Smarter >." This terrific opener started hot and continued with two other great Dead songs "Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl," > "Althea." One of the newer (mid 1999) Ratdog songs came up next with a pleasant "Ashes and Glass." Then, Bobby picked up the ole acoustic and played us a sweet "Masters of War > Me and My Uncle." Bob then signaled into the 1967 folk-rock Bob Dylan classic first recorded during the Basement Tapes sessions, "Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn) >." This was a big sing-a-long and the crowd was really pleased thus far in the set. Saxophonist, Kenny Brooks was prominent in the next mellow "Foolish Heart >," not only with his melodic sax, but with his shirt that featured the word HIGH in gigantic tape letters. The only Ratdog song not to make it on to the Evening Moods recording to Weir's delight because of its evolution was "She Says." This hard working song came next, and was followed by an amazing "Help on the Way > Come Together", by the Beatles.

No one was really sure how the set would play out because of all the heavy hitters on the bill, but we knew that we'd get a lot of jams between the bands, and that's what happened next. Keller Williams came out in time for the "China Cat Sunflower," and the young blues master Derek Trucks came on for the closer "I Know You Rider." This was a special moment in this show. After the tune came to an end, Ratdog closed with "Ripple." The set was an overall success, and all of the fans seemed to have appreciated this hard hitting opener.

Finally, it was time for the Allman Brothers to take the stage. And everyone knows that this band has the best guitar players around as their members, so it doesn't matter how many times you see them. With Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks in the same band, they should pack venues for even many more years to come.

The Brothers opened up with the first song off of their first album, "Don't Want You No More," which was originally recorded by The Spencer Davis Group in 1967. This is an instrumental gem that will warm up any crowd especially when it's followed by "It's Not My Cross to Bear." Greg Allman wrote this song about an old girlfriend, and when he sings it, one can still hear the southern passion in his voice. The fan favorites, "Statesboro Blues" and "Midnight Rider" came next with beautiful guitar work switching on and off between Trucks and Haynes. "Black Hearted Woman" followed and this song just so happens to be about the same girl as "It's Not My Cross to Bear." Allman's heart was bleeding tonight, and the ladies in the front row were starry eyed.  After a great "Dreams," Bob Weir and Ratdog drummer Jay Lane came up to do the Grateful Dead's "Franklin's Tower." The amphitheatre roared with excitement throughout the whole song, and a collage of dancers made a visual kaleidoscope. Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" surprised the crowd next with the soothing sounds of Warren Haynes' voice. This guitar extravaganza closed with a rippin' "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." The Allman Brothers encored with a soulful "Whipping Post," and a huge applause for an effort well deserving of praise.

A special thanks goes out to Dennis McNally for the ticket and pass!  Check out some pictures from the show.

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