Dead & Company, the Grateful Dead spinoff band consisting of alumni Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (drums) and Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) along with John Mayer (guitar/vocals), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards/vocals), and Oteil Burbridge (bass/vocals), returned to their Bay Area home base to play the first of two shows at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre, the venue designed and built by the late, legendary promoter and Deadhead Bill Graham. The familiarity of the surroundings for the tour’s second show would yield a well-chosen setlist and an ebb-and-flow show that emphasized four of the Grateful Dead’s 1960s masterpieces and contained a second set that with one exception, could have been a 1971 Grateful Dead show on paper.
With a temperature in the high 60s, the show kicked off at 7:15 pm with a pair of late 1960s psychedelic-era classics. First was “St. Stephen” in a rare show-opening slot, with the thick tones of Burbridge’s new Sandberg bass coming through the mix loud and clear. The song’s extended jam caught fire after several minutes, with Mayer’s soaring solo eventually leading to its final verse.
Dead & Company – “St. Stephen” [Pro-Shot] – 6/13/22
A second early surprise followed in the form of the “William Tell Bridge” and “The Eleven”, neither of which had previously appeared in a Dead & Company first set. “The Eleven” gained its momentum more quickly and then maintained it for the remainder of its 14 minutes, and this unexpected two-song, half-hour journey was the highlight of the first set.
The remaining 40 minutes of the set jumped around the first-set repertoire, with a slower “Shakedown Street” moving things from the late ’60s to the late ’70s while Burbridge’s rich, fuzz-laden bass tones added to the proceedings. The shorter, faster “Big Railroad Blues” and its welcome jolt of energy followed as Mayer took his first lead vocal of the night, and Weir countered with the faster acoustic arrangement of “Friend of the Devil” that was played entirely on electric guitars. Weir delivered an updated take on the solo he traditionally took during the Grateful Dead’s slower electric versions of the song.
Related: Bob Dylan Busts Out Grateful Dead “Friend Of The Devil” Cover In Oakland [Listen]
The relatively rare “Crazy Fingers” was the third welcome surprise of the first set, and its slower, meandering passages and haiku-format lyrics meshed perfectly with the twilight. After its closing jam contained a pleasant surge, Mayer led the brief charge through set-closer “Don’t Ease Me In.”
As night fell during the intermission and the temperature dropped into the low 60s, the band kicked off the second set with Mayer’s reading of “Deal”, containing a visual highlight of Mayer jumping up and down while soloing before augmenting the latter section of his solo with sustained use of chords.
Dead & Company – “Deal” [Pro-Shot] – 6/13/22
As the song wound down, Weir played a few light chords to lead a short, effective transition into “Dark Star”, the Grateful Dead’s signature open-ended improvisational vehicle. This version unfolded as a slower take through its opening eight minutes, and even though Weir started the first verse’s vocals a count or two early the band smoothly fell into line behind him as if it hadn’t happened. After another short, spacey segment, Weir donned an acoustic guitar and led the band into the Marty Robbins country classic “El Paso”, which made its way through its tragic tale before coming to a complete stop.
There was a pause of a few seconds as Weir kept his acoustic guitar on and counted in the biggest surprise of the night, Dead & Company’s debut of “Sing Me Back Home”, the sorrowful Merle Haggard song of a death-row prisoner’s last wish. This song appeared in Grateful Dead shows from 1971 through 1973 as a slower, somber ballad sung by the late Jerry Garcia, with Donna Jean Godchaux’s backing vocals playing a key role in the delivery of the song’s powerful choruses. However, Dead & Company’s version is faster and hews closely to the Merle Haggard and the Strangers’ original recording, which hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in November 1967.
It got off to a tentative start but gathered steam as it progressed, and it led straight back into the second half of “Dark Star”. This time the song immediately located a faster, jazzy approach for a full eight minutes, and it was one of the two musical highlights of the second set. Another shorter jam after the song’s second verse continued in the same jazzy vein before segueing into a contemplative “Uncle John’s Band” highlighted by Mayer’s engrossing, watery guitar solo.
Dead & Company – “Uncle John’s Band” – 6/13/22
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The “Drums” section of the show maintained a mellower vibe while Kreutzmann and Hart played a duet that recalled some of Hart’s Planet Drum excursions, but the pace and intensity picked up when Burbridge joined them for several minutes before yielding to Hart’s subtle and effective solo segment on The Beam, with its droning monochord tones offset by electronic sequences and vocal samples.
After the customary “Space” segment by the guitarists and Chimenti, the music slowly coalesced into “Cumberland Blues”, with Mayer and Chimenti pulling faces at each other while they played their longer, interacting solos, and the resulting momentum made the song the second musical highlight of the second set.
Weir then opted for a faster-than-usual reading of “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” in the late-show ballad slot before closing the set with “Sugar Magnolia”, which somehow finished its solo section and moved into its “Sunshine Daydream” coda without ever really coming to its usual full stop.
With just a few minutes remaining before the 11 p.m. curfew, Mayer and Weir wasted no time strapping on acoustic guitars for the “Ripple” encore that brought the show to a delicate and happy close.
Dead & Company play their second of two shows at Shoreline on Wednesday, June 14th. Get tickets here. Check out a gallery of images from last night courtesy of photographer Matthew Rea.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Shoreline Amphitheatre | Mountain View, CA | 6/13/22
Set One (7:15 – 8:25): St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge > The Eleven, Shakedown Street, Big Railroad Blues, Friend of the Devil, Crazy Fingers, Don’t Ease Me In
Set Two (9:02 – 11:00): Deal > Dark Star  > El Paso, Sing Me Back Home  > Dark Star  > Uncle John’s Band > Drums > Space > Cumberland Blues > Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Sugar Magnolia
 Verse 1 only
 Dead & Company debut
 Verse 2 only