Dead and Company are in the middle of their fall tour as they sliced and diced their hypnotically, mind transforming blend of musical flavor in the nation’s capital.
Watching the band’s tour busses leave the city after the show, you can not help but think about the fact that some of these cats have been touring this country, touring the world, for 50 years. Although the Grateful Dead formed in the mid-sixties and played mainly around the San Francisco Bay area, the band did not start touring nationally until 1967. The idea that they still have the energy to perform with such a high-caliber of musical enthusiasm is quite special.
Dead and Company are returning to arenas this fall hot off a summer spent traversing the states and playing select outdoor stadiums and venues. Original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart, along with their friends John Mayer on lead guitar/lead/backing vocals, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards/backing vocals, and Oteil Burbridge on bass guitar/ percussion/and lead/backing vocals, are rolling right on through the Thanksgiving holiday sharing their blend of psychedelic, jam band-rock to the masses of Deadheads and fans.
Opening the evening with “Feel Like a Stranger,” it didn’t take long for the fans to immerse their minds and dancing feet into the musical journey that was ready to begin. For a man that just turned 70, Bobby still has the ability to lead the band through his voice and playing. With such a distinctive style, Weir started the night with fervor and the group never looked back.
Mayer took lead vocals for “Bertha” and took this set into high gear. Capital One Arena took on a magical feeling, with so many people smiling and utterly enjoying the moment. Instruments and voice have such powerful effects on the human spirit, music truly has the ability to create a mystical place of awareness and passion.
Dead and Company plotted an incredible course of feeling and emotion throughout the evening, as is normal with a Dead set. From upbeat-jamming melodies to laid-back ballads, the atmosphere is presented that the audience can enjoy a musical voyage that takes many twists and turns through a harmonious and fluent galaxy of songs.
“Ship of Fools” started with Mayer leading the vocals, but then quickly changed as Burbridge helped finish the first verse. Diving into a four-piece harmony including Weir and Chimenti for the first lines of the chorus with Mayer and Burbridge taking turns with the chorus tags, this song was a lovely highlight of the night. It was evident that these guys are having fun sharing this stage together. The respect that they show each other by melding the space of musical freedom is just amazing to witness. “Cassidy” and “Deal” finished a strong first set.
Why Dead show intermissions have always been upwards of 30 minutes is unclear, but when the music starts again, it lights up like a stick of dynamite. The band were unrelenting tonight, bringing jams inspiring the dancing band of gypsies that occupy the floor space of the arena to twirl into the majestic lights that were filling the hall. The show beyond the music was very professional, the lights were stunning and the video projection had two large screens on either side of the stage in a vertical format that were perfect for highlighting the performers while jamming on stage.
“Help on the Way,” “Slipknot,” and “Franklins Tower” exposed the second set for what the band expected to produce. The boys drifted off into a classic Dead-esque jam, and continued that path for the remainder of the set. Although Mayer seemed to have some technical difficulty with a pedal during this time, the sound guys just let Weirs rhythm take the space and soon Mayer was right back in the mix.
A Bobby classic “Rain” was next, done to perfection. This band is sounding very tight. From Burbridge’s skill on the bass and Chimenti’s beautiful playing on the keys, this band is definitely completed by Mayer’s mastery of the guitar. Mayer performed with Weir, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, and Trey Anastasio during the 2002 Jammys at The Roseland Ballroom in New York City. Who knew that 15 years later he would be immersed in this style of music, but he is dug in deep and loving every second of it.
A crowd favorite, “Terrapin Station,” was launched next. This song, as with most tonight, has so many different layers. Each instrument and voice brings a different canyon of richness to the mix, and this night was like a voyage into the grandaddy of them all. Flowing through regulars “Drums” and “Space”, Bobby then sang a mesmerizing “Days Between,” placed in between “Space” and “Throwing Stones” just as it was performed in the past. A special treat, this was a collaboration that came later in the Hunter/Garcia days, and Weir dug down deep and ripped a hauntingly beautiful rendition of this piece. Dead and Company encored with “Touch of Grey.”
It is interesting to see the many different versions of The Dead that have performed since Jerry died, and with no disrespect to Jerry at all, he was surely smiling down on D.C. as the boys delivered a top-notch performance playing a deep, rich set of classic Dead material. We can’t wait to see what next year brings for Dead and Company. Deadheads can only hope that this long strange trip continues.
Event Date: 21-NOV-2017