Today, iconic bassist George Porter Jr. turns 71. In addition to 50 years of serving up New Orleans’ funkiest bass lines, as a member of The Meters, George Porter Jr. was recently honored by the Recording Academy with a 2018 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, along with fellow honorees The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Louis Jordan, Queen, Frank Sinatra, and Tina Turner.
In February, Dead & Company made their long-awaited New Orleans debut at the Smoothie King Center. Three months after John Mayer’s pesky appendix forced the band to cancel its previously scheduled appearance at the venue, Mayer, Burbridge, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Jeff Chimenti finally took the Big Easy by storm—and it’s safe to say this one was worth the wait.
Dead & Company roared out of the gate with a “Feel Like A Stranger” that seamlessly veered into another Bob Weir/John Perry Barlow favorite, “The Music Never Stopped”. The tune offered Mayer an early opportunity to dive into an expansive jam, and he took it without reservation (while also letting out a solid Donna Jean impression behind the mic). “The Music Never Stopped” eventually gave way to “Cold Rain and Snow”, which quickly became the night’s first singalong as the crowd was bathed in light with each chorus. After three big numbers, Dead & Company took things down a notch with a gorgeous “Peggy-O” that put Weir front and center before meandering into a “Friend of the Devil” that elicited cheers with its opening notes.
After wrapping up the American Beauty staple, Burbridge quietly abdicated in preparation for the night’s most delightful surprise: a perfectly executed sit-in from hometown hero George Porter Jr. of The Meters fame. The funk pioneer and bonafide Crescent City icon provided a sturdy foundation for a spot-on rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”, even playfully growling his way through his portion of the lyrics. Porter’s magnetic playing eventually drew in Mayer, who went to toe-to-toe with the New Orleans bass master during his solo—a move the pair would repeat with the “Bertha” and “Sugaree” that followed.
While that “Bertha” was a certainly a treat, the “Sugaree” that closed out the set was arguably the night’s high point. Porter may not be an expert on the Grateful Dead canon, but “Sugaree” has been in his repertoire for some time, and his confidence with the song was on full display as he led the band through the Garcia/Hunter classic. If his smile was any indication, the tune was a special moment for Porter—just as it was for the thousands of people who showered him with applause as Dead & Company headed off stage.
Checkout fan-shot videos of George Porter Jr.’s epic Crescent City sit-in with Dead and Company below:
Dead & Company w/ George Porter Jr. – “Smokestack Lightning”
Dead & Company w/ George Porter Jr. – “Bertha”
Dead & Company w/ George Porter Jr. – “Sugaree”
Happy 71st birthday George, and many more!
Setlist: Dead & Company | Smoothie King Center | New Orleans, LA | 2/25/18
Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger > The Music Never Stopped > Cold Rain and Snow, Peggy-O, Friend of the Devil, Smokestack Lightning*, Bertha^, Sugaree*
Set 2: Scarlet Begonias, Fire on the Mountain, Truckin’ > Ship of Fools > Uncle John’s Band > Drums/Space > Stella Blue > One More Saturday Night
Encore: Werewolves of London
*with George Porter Jr. (The Meters) on bass, vocals
^with George Porter Jr. (The Meters) on bass