On July 27th, RAQ set sail for a unique set on the Rocks Off Boat Cruise around the Statue of Liberty. It was their first show back on tour after their own festival the weekend before called the Lew Au II, which took place in their home state of Vermont. As the boat boarded, the fans realized how exciting this was going to be and the cheering and anticipation was imminent. The tiny intimate boat set sail at around 10pm, and the band came on shortly after.
RAQ opened with a cover of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen," which displayed early on guitar god Chris Michetti's ability to play classic rock n' roll blues. This song is often placed on lists of best rock n' roll songs of all time because of its unique phrasing and blues licks. RAQ showed the ability to hit hard early with this classic opener. The band then went into hyper drive when they played really fast versions of "Bootch Magoo" > "Moserine" > "Shirley Be a Drooler" > "Beauregard." The boat was literally rockin', and RAQ was wailing these songs full speed ahead. Many of the mentioned songs are fast to begin with; imagine them at almost twice the speed. Also, the latter two songs affectionately referred to by fans as "Shirleygard," featured killer keys and effects by Todd Stoops. Next, nearly without notice they played just the ending of "Café Borgia," followed by "Silhouette."
The show was already off to an incredible start when the very familiar beginning notes of "Have a Cigar" by Pink Floyd amazed the eager crowd. This song went smoothly into the menacing groove of "Japan." One cannot help but imagine a giant Godzilla stomping around during this tune. After "Japan," the band covered "Push the Lil' Daises," to the delight of most of the fans. The vocal effects of this song were done extremely well, and I think they do a better job on this song than Ween does, and they wrote it. RAQ segued into the reggae sounds of "Tone," which included an "Informer" tease by the group Snow. Remember that one? That took us all back a decade or so.
"Georgia" started the final cluster of an awesome first set. From "Georgia," they went into a bluegrass version of "The Down Low" and back into "Georgia." To end the set the band went back into the third song of the night, "Moserine."
At set break, the crowd all piled out to the decks of the ship to see the boat sailing around the Statue of Liberty. I have to say, I've seen the statue before, but there was something about it this time that was simply majestic. Now it could have been the psilocybin, but the way that she protrudes out into the Hudson River with pride and an expression of confidence in democracy really hit home on this trip.
After we pulled away from Lady Liberty, RAQ didn't miss a beat while opening the second set with the James Gang song "Funk #49." Now if you're not familiar with this fun song or you forget how it goes, after you're done reading the review, there is a great clip on youtube with the James Gang in their 70's flair funkin' this song up.
The following song was "Otis Spode," which I heard was about a dream that Stoops had about the devil. During this song, Stoops looked like a spider creeping quickly along all of the keys that he had on his setup. He looked possessed and in the zone, taunting the crowd, and swaying as he slithered across notes.
"Premium" and "Return to Sender" were played with mid set grace, and the boat began to pull up to the dock again as the band sung, "Along the way back home," from "Said and Done." The song was sung with meaning and emotion, but I thought the show would end soon. Thank goodness I was wrong. We were at the dock, but the show wasn't even close to being over. Whew!
Where I was standing gave me a great perspective of the band's force. I was an arm's length away from Stoops and drummer Greg Stucky, and a few songs before this moment I really started to notice Stucky's contribution to this show. He was a machine tucked behind his kit on this stuffy stage. He was quick, steady, and definitely dialed in on this night. Then, Stucky started Paul Gilbert's "Jackhammer," which is a clinic for drummers. But not only that, they went into "Rattlesnake," and then back into "Jackhammer." This run of songs was amazing, and the show was still far from over.
"Wax" went into the end of the second song that they played, "Bootch Magoo," which sent the die-hards reeling as they realized what was taking place. Smiles were aboard the ship in every direction.
The band took a short break, and then came out to encore first with the song "Girl." This song with echoing effects on the microphone surprised the crowd and lended itself perfectly for the show closer "All Day and All of the Night" by The Kinks. When they started this song a sweaty man that looked like he was in his 60's approached me and said, "I saw this band live, man." The look on his face was priceless, and he was so excited. After thrashing with him and the rest of my friends for the final song of the night, it was time to head out into the New York City night "along the way back home" for real this time.
This is the third review that I have written about this up and coming powerhouse called RAQ. If you haven't seen them by now, you really don't know what you are missing. They continue to prove to me that they are one of the best live bands out there right now, and they are only getting better. I see a lot of music, and when I am at a RAQ show, I continually have to shake my head in disbelief. They are innovative, current, talented, and slowly blowing up the jam band music scene. Check them out as soon as possible!