On Saturday night, Dead & Company returned to Boulder, CO’s Folsom Field for the second time in as many nights, finishing off the band’s summer tour with a standout showing. With no shows left on the books in 2018, save for a two-night appearance at LOCKN’ in August, the Grateful Dead-inspired six-piece left a lasting impression on the packed arena.
While Friday night saw some technical difficulties and a slow start to the show, Dead & Company clearly had worked out the kinks when they took the stage on Saturday evening. In contrast to Friday’s somewhat slower “Iko Iko”, the band came out strong, opening with an energized combination of the beloved traditional duo, “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider”.
Dead & Company – “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” [Pro-Shot]
[Video: Dead & Company]
With the audience captivated from the start, the group continued this upbeat start to the show, deftly moving into “Shakedown Street”, embracing the song’s disco influence by projecting a giant disco ball on the screen behind them featuring appropriate overlays of the Colorado flag as well as weed leaves and stealies. While the song started out with a slower tempo, the group’s spirited improvisation after the initial verses pushed the song’s speed forward, eventually ending in an extended improvisational section housing a fun vocal jam.
While Bob Weir had led the vocals on the first three songs of the night, John Mayer got his first opportunity to step up to the mic and lead during a soulful take on “Brown Eyed Women”. Maintaining the momentum of three upbeat opening numbers, the song kept the audience enthralled and singing along. The song was highlighted by Jeff Chimenti‘s skillful work on the baby grand piano, as he offered up a spirited solo before eventually inviting Mayer to join in the fray. One thing that has become apparent during Dead & Company’s summer tour is the ever-growing chemistry between Mayer and Chimenti—an electric energy that has only grown since the keyboardist switched stage positions with Oteil Burbridge during the group’s penultimate summer tour stop in Albuquerque.
Following the show-opening run of uplifting and easy-grooving tunes, the band moved into fan-favorite, a captivating and heartfelt rendition of “Althea”, with Mayer leading the way with his velvet vocals searing guitar riffs. After a pause, the offered up a Cadillac-sized “Cassidy”, getting lost on the country miles with a winding, jazzy jam that steadily built up sonic tension before emphatically arriving at the song’s final refrain. From there, the group dropped immediately into a rendition of “One More Saturday Night”, an appropriate—if not predictable—choice, given the day of the week.
While some fans complain about this group’s tendency to savor songs and take them at a slower-than-usual pace, it seems as though Dead & Company has been experimenting with manipulating tempos. Much like “Shakedown Street”, “One More Saturday Night” got a slow start, giving Mayer the space to offer up bluesy guitar licks around Bob Weir’s vocals. However, the song continued to accelerate, amping the crowd up throughout its jam portion, and particularly during Chimenti and Mayer’s exchanging of solos. Clearly feeding off the energy of the audience, Weir hit his high notes and belted out emphatic howls as the song reached its climax and ended set one.
Returning for set two, Bob Weir told the crowd, “We just need to get our ducks in a row,” before the band launched into a stellar “Scarlet Begonias”, Mayer’s guitar solo leading to peaks that drove the crowd into a frenzy. Next, the group detoured unexpectedly into “Franklin’s Tower”. Yet another upbeat tune, the song’s bounding groove was locked in by Burbridge, who elegantly weaved through Mayer’s melodic solo.
Dead & Company – “Scarlet Begonias” [Pro-Shot]
[Video: Dead & Company]
Recalling the second set’s opening number, “Scarlet Begonias”, Dead & Company finished off the opening song’s customary pairing with an extended, improvisation-heavy take on “Fire On The Mountain” with Oteil on lead vocal duty. The combination of “Scarlet Begonias” > “Franklin’s Tower” > “Fire On The Mountain”—three fan-favorite songs—was an uplifting way to start set two, and the crowd responded in kind to the rare combination.
As the extended jam in “Fire On The Mountain” came to a discrete end, the band began to lay out a moving rendition of “He’s Gone”. Mayer’s blues-tinged guitar parts were a standout of the number, with the pop star-turned-Deadhead tastefully ornamenting the band’s tight vocal harmonies after each phrase. After the passionate song, a somewhat clunky transition harkened in the rumbling complexity of “The Other One”. After the song’s first verse, the band delved into a cacophonous jam, foregoing verse two in favor of “Drums/Space”.
Like Friday night’s performance, Oteil joined the Rhythm Devils, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, for the driving, tribal-inspired percussion solo. When the rest of the band returned for “Space”, it was clear the group was ready for more adventurous improvisations; unlike Friday’s show, which quickly landed in a heavy, propulsive groove, Saturday’s “Space” was more exploratory and ambient. Led by Weir’s discordant guitar, “Space” morphed into an electronica-tinged jam, Oteil’s bass providing the jam’s framework.
As “Space” dissolved into chaos, “The Other One” slowly reemerged, first identified by the recurrence of the song’s polyrhythmic drums. As the second set began to near its close, Dead & Company slowed things down with a mournful ballad, the Bob Weir-sung “Days Between”. The drummers anchored the easy-going jam, with Mayer soaring over the jam’s solid base as Chimenti offered up shimmering accents on the keys.
Continuing the spacious tone carried through since “Space”, “Days Between” trickled to a close ahead of the celebratory set-closing rendition of “Sugar Magnolia”. A notably energetic and feel-good take on the number, particularly in contrast to the ballad that preceded it, the jubilant song energized both the crowd and the band, with all cylinders firing as they closed the second frame.
For the encore, Dead & Company quickly jumped into “Uncle John’s Band”, with Mayer offering up an intricate and patient solo that matched the easy groove of the song. Following a darker bridge, Mayer and Chimenti cascaded over the rhythm section’s rock-solid foundation, with the jam eventually loosening up and offering space for soaring solos before the group found their way back to unison. With the entire crowd clapping along, “Uncle John’s Band” came to a triumphant close, the band earning huge cheers as they took doffed their instruments.
The six members huddled in the center of the stage and hugged, only highlighting the strength of the relationships among band members. Clearly excited about the stellar performance, the group took a few photos with the crowd as the house’s applause built to a fever pitch behind them. Dead & Company departed the stage briefly, but with ten minutes left before the venue’s curfew, the band quickly reappeared for a second encore.
With Weir donning an acoustic guitar, the band offered up a stunning rendition of “Ripple” for their second encore, Mayer simulating the song’s quivering mandolin part. Slowly, the stadium began to sparkle, as fans across the stands and on the field held up lighters and phones—making for a gorgeous shared moment and a wondrous way to end Dead & Company’s summer tour.
You can check out a gallery of photos from Dead & Company’s tour closer in Boulder, CO below courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Folsom Field | Boulder, CO | 7/14/2018
Set One: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Shakedown Street, Brown Eyed Women, Althea, Cassidy > One More Saturday Night
Set Two: Scarlet Begonias > Franklin’s Tower > Fire On The Mountain > He’s Gone > The Other One v. 1 > Drums/Space > The Other One v. 2 > Days Between, Sugar Magnolia
Encore One: Uncle John’s Band
Encore Two: Ripple
A full soundboard recording of the performance is available to stream via Nugs.net.