Last night, Dead & Company kicked off their two-show stint in New York City at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden with the lineup they’ve been honing since their first shows at The Garden in 2015: original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Billy Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart as well as a first-class supporting cast comprised of bassist decorated bassist Oteil Burbridge (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Allman Brothers Band), skillfully nimble keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (Ratdog, Furthur) and, of course, pop star/blues prodigy-turned-Grateful six-string slinger John Mayer on lead guitar.
The band sauntered onstage as the awaiting audience erupted with cheers, echoing throughout the spacious stadium. The distinctive opening note of “Shakedown Street” prompted a resounding roar of appreciation. In typical Dead & Co fashion, this rendition of “Shakedown Street” was played at half tempo, slow and casual, but the lyrics rang true to the core. “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just gotta poke around…”
Watch pro-shot video of the “Shakedown Street” opener via the band’s YouTube account and nugs.tv:
The sextet followed with “The Greatest Story Ever Told” with Bob Weir coming to life on the Dead & Company debut of his own original song, playing passionately throughout. John Mayer then took the reins and lead vocals for an upbeat “Bertha”, before Bobby once again returned to the spotlight for a stirring and beautiful version of his own song “Cassidy”. The song was played slowly and deliberately, but got especially weird and jam-tastic before the last verse. The final notes rang out and faded away to silence, at which point Bobby saluted the audience with a “Good Evening, New York!”
Watch “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, “Bertha”, “They Love Each Other”, and “Cumberland Blues” below, courtesy of btragal:
Next, the band kept it moving with another Dead & Co debut–a spirited version of Jesse Fuller original and longtime Grateful Dead live staple “Beat it On Down the Line”, with Bobby taking lead vocals but Oteil, Mayer, and Chimenti all contributing with back-up vocals. Without beating around the bush, the band then progressed into a version of cherished Garcia/Hunter tune “They Love Each Other” with John Mayer contributing smoothly satisfying lead vocals. To conclude the first set, the band delved into a high octane “Cumberland Blues” with Weir singing lead, but the song’s MVP was the ridiculous Jeff Chimenti solo on keys. The set lasted just a little more than an hour, and left the feeling that the real heat was soon to follow.
After set break, the band maintained the energy with another Garcia/Hunter favorite, “China Cat Sunflower”, with Weir on lead vocals. True to tradition, the band segued into the fan-favorite Dead-adopted traditional “I Know You Rider” with John Mayer singing lead on the first verse and Bob Weir taking over for the remainder. Chimenti took another solo near the end, tearing the place apart with his cascading keyboard runs.
Watch pro-shot video of the second set opener via the band’s YouTube account and nugs.tv:
Watch “Terrapin Station” below, courtesy of btragal:
After a brief pause, the band slipped into a haunting rendition of the rarely-played “Ship of Fools”, sung by John Mayer with some vital and pristine vocal assistance from Burbridge. Oteil did a spectacular job singing on this tune, imbuing it with his trademark soulfully-sincere swagger. The band kept the fire blazing with a gracefully executed version of “Terrapin” with John Mayer starting singing “Lady With A Fan” before passing the baton to Weir for the “Terrapin Station” release.
Watch “Terrapin Station” below, courtesy of btragal:
The audience was held enraptured as most of the band shuffled off the stage to cool off while the Rhythm Devils held down the percussion beats. The primality of “Drums” evolved into the transcendental sounds of “Space” led by mad scientist Mickey Hart and his own unique invention “The Beam.” The band resumed positions while the Rhythm Devils continued to wail and thump, and morphed seamlessly into the exquisite tale of longing, another Jerry heart-wrenching tune, “Standing on the Moon”, sung beautifully and emotional by Weir.
Next, the band launched into an outstanding rendition of “The Other One” which would prove to be the improvisational highlight of the evening, including a heavily jammed intro and an immaculate peaking Mayer solo at the back end. The band concluded the second set with “Casey Jones”, with Mayer on lead vocals and Bob Weir and the rest of the band adding choral textures to the refrain. Appropriately, the song picked up tempo every time Casey Jones is “driving that train, high on cocaine”, and by the end–several times the original speed–the musical train had picked up enough momentum to have every single member of the audience spinning, jiving, and dancing wildly.
The band jaunted offstage for a quick break before returning to stage, briefly teasing “Not Fade Away” before Weir took the Sunday crowd to church with Dead spiritual staple, “Samson and Delilah”. Weir performed the song with particularly impregnable rockstar bravado; When he’s wearing his glasses, you know he he did his homework. The song erupted and the audience responded raucously to the chorus, “If I had my way… I would tear this whole building down….” The band once more began to walk offstage, but again returned to finish the night in an upbeat style with a sing-along rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”. John Mayer took the first half of the lead vocals, and Bobby meandered his way through the second half as a Mayer solo pushed the song into hyperdrive. All in all, the band came out ready and able to open this tour with the style, precision, professionalism, and passion that this music inspires in so many people all over the world.
Thanks to rdeal1999, you can watch “Werewolves of London” below:
Dead & Company will be back at Madison Square Garden this Tuesday, November 14th before continuing their tour to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on November 16th. For a full list of upcoming dates, check out the band’s website.
Check out the full gallery of photos from the tour opener below, courtesy of photographer Matthew Rea!
SETLIST: Dead & Company | Madison Square Garden | New York City, NY | 11/12/17
Shakedown Street, Greatest Story Ever Told (live debut), Bertha, Cassidy, Beat It On Down The Line (live debut), They Love Each Other, Cumberland Blues
II: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Ship of Fools, Terrapin Station > Drums, Space > Standing on the Moon, The Other One, Casey Jones
E: Samson and Delilah, Werewolves of London