Railroad Earth played two nights, on Saturday May 19 and Sunday May 20, aboard The Liberty Belle as part of the 2018 Rocks Off Concert Cruise Series.  The series features bands performing on the ship while cruising New York Harbor past iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and features staggeringly beautiful views of the New York skyline.

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It really is a wonderful and unique concert experience and Railroad Earth rose to the occasion putting on an amazingly strong show on Saturday and an absolutely epic performance on Sunday that were both chock full of songs replete with boat, sea, river, water, and sailing references.

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Saturday May 19

Saturday started as a stormy day; at times, merely raining and at other times, an absolute deluge.  But by the time the 6 o’clock hour, time to board the ship, rolled around, the rain had largely stopped though the evening was to remain atmospherically damp and foggy.

As the band took the small, crowded stage and we shoved off, they launched right into an obvious choice:

“In the mighty river – rollin’ along
Washin’ clean
In the mighty river – I’m over my head
Tearin’ free”

Up next, a traveling song of sorts, followed by finding ourselves surrounded by water:

“I’ve been lost, alone, and ramblin’
Where I’m goin’ I don’t know
Lordy, Lord above – come on down and shine your love”

“Woke up this morning
With the cold water
With the cold water
With the cold”

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The Bill Monroe instrumental Old Dangerfield was followed by the rare Jack Hardy tune about soldiers shipping off from the UK to France:

“From Dover to Dunkirk
With all these faces i’ll never see again
From Dover to Dunkirk
The sea is as quiet as a long lost friend”

But then all of a sudden without any warning:

“And then the river ends, you leave the boat, and find you’re walking…
The boat is floating in your mind, although these words are talking…”

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And then just as the whole room is smilin’ like Buddhas, we hear a salmon song:

“I’ve lost my fear, diving to the waves”

…which of course, leads into a further fish story to close the set:

“I wish I was a fisherman tumblin’ on the seas,
Far away from dry land and it’s bitter memories,
Casting out my sweet line with abandonment and love,
No ceiling bearin’ down on me, save the starry sky above
A light in my head! You in my arms! Woo hoo hoo!”

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Set 2 starts with the instrumental Farewell to Isinglass, that’s right I said, “Isinglass” which as everyone knows is dried fish bladder and as the Liberty Belle pulls closest to the real Lady Liberty, tonight looking majestic in her veil of fog, the band launches into an emotional and poignant cover to fit the location:

“Countin’ the cars on the New Jersey turnpike,
They’ve all come to look for America – all come to look for America!”

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And then the hopeful America is followed by 2 songs about the reality of America at the present time and maybe the only thing to do about it:

“All the world is in ruin, every dream is dead
Me I’ll be out flying – tryin’ to turn on my own head”

“It’s gettin’ wild in the city – trouble everyday
It’s gettin’ wild in the city – it isn’t going away
You can add my voice to the voice of the people who are filled with disgust
You can add my voice to the voice of the people who have had enough”

But another thing we can do is gaze in wonder at the magnificent beauty of this planet and take it all in:

“Just watching the years wash away…”

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Or just maybe we can just wave goodbye to the hard times:

“Bye-Bye, say goodbye – all those days are done
we’re ridin’ on to glory in the saddle of the sun”

Then another water song,

“It’s goin’ down like bread and water”

is followed by two songs that end the show by tying together the railroad and the sea:

“Tell me have you heard the story of the Jupiter & The 119?”

“Lost out at sea – Tossed by the waves
The freedom ship with its galley of slaves

Whipped by the winds – Gripped by the tides
To the dangerous depths, the freedom ship rides”

And finally, a most fitting encore:

“Luxury liner, forty tons of steel, if I don’t find my baby now, I guess I never will
I’ve been a long lost soul for a long long time”

Sunday May 20

Without waxing lyrical as I did for the Saturday show, I’ll simply say that Sunday was a total smoker of a show.  Nearly every version of every song was jammed out to the max; this was true, right off the bat, of the show openers, Chasin’ a Rainbow and The Forecast.  And speaking of rainbows, the weather tonight was a seaman’s dream — cool and dry with every color of the rainbow splattered across the sky.  The first set also featured two jammed out Andrew Altman penned tunes – Only By the Light and When the Sun Gets in your Blood as well as Tim Carbone’s newer song, Raven’s Child.  The ship pulled round the Statue of Liberty tonight just as the band was ending the first set with another song,  at least obliquely, about finding freedom, Bird in a House.

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Second set began with yet another mystical jamming tune – Seven Story Mountain – and  also featured a blazing version of Elko as well as two sweet songs positioned not in, but on the edge of the water, On the Banks and A Day on the Sand.  The Altman/Skehan mashup of 12 Wolves went way out tonight and the set ultimately ended with the one-two punch of the seldom-played but appropriate Beach Boys tune, Sail On, Sailor  and Walk Beside Me.  The eponymous Railroad Earth, played sweetly and dripping with big gobs of love, sent us back to land as the boat pulled into dock.

Several days later, I am stilled filled with the love and good feelings instilled by these two very special shows.

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Rocks Off Concert Cruise – New York May 19, 2018
Set 1
Mighty River
Lordy, Lordy
Cold Water
Old Dangerfield
Dover To Dunkirk
Like A Buddha
Where Songs Begin ->
Fisherman’s Blues
Set 2
Farewell to Isinglass
America
Head
Addin’ My Voice ->
Grandfather Mountain
Saddle Of The Sun
Bread And Water
The Jupiter and the 119 ->
Captain Nowhere
Encore:
Luxury Liner
Rocks Off Concert Cruise – New York, NY May 20, 2018
Set 1
Chasin’ a Rainbow
The Forecast
Drag Him Down
The Good Life
Only by the Light ->
Raven’s Child
When the Sun Gets in Your Blood
Dance Around Molly ->
Dandelion Wine
Bird in a House
Set 2
Seven Story Mountain
Blazin’ a Trail
Elko
On The Banks
A Day On The Sand
12 Wolves
Hangtown Ball
Sail On, Sailor
Walk Beside Me 
Encore:
Railroad Earth

Excellent audience copies of both shows from archive.org courtesy of Keith Litzenberger:

Saturday the 19th: https://archive.org/details/rre2018-05-19.litz.schoepsMK41v.flac16

Sunday the 20th: https://archive.org/details/rre2018-05-20.litz.schoepsMK41v.flac16

Both shows were great; the 20th is an essential show in our opinion.

YouTube Video of the second set opening Seven Story Mountain from May 20th: