Dead & Company returned to Folsom Field at the University of Colorado – Boulder last night for the second and final night of their Colorado run. Coming off of Friday’s performance, the Grateful Dead spin-off was primed and ready for the performance, setting the bar high for the rest of the tour. With the act being relatively young (despite its veteraned members across the board), last night saw the group truly dialed into one another, hitting their groove, and putting on an electric show. Particularly in contrast to Friday night’s first set, throughout both sets last night, Dead & Company savored building through to other songs, highlighted by the patient transitions across their well-crafted setlist, which easily juggled their alternatingly jubilant and soulful numbers.
With a non-stop five-song sequence opening the first set, from the get-go, Dead & Company came ready to play. An energized “Truckin'” marked the start of the set, eliciting triumphant hoots and hollers from across the crowd as their initially sparse introduction made way for a gorgeous guitar-led start to the song. For Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” and “Spoonful” (the latter originally written by Willie Dixon), the group easily settled in the songs’ bluesy grooves. Both numbers were carried by Oteil Burbridge’s expert handling of the prominent bass lines and Bob Weir’s impassioned vocals and further augmented by the interplay between Jeff Chimenti’s shimmering work on the baby grand and John Mayer’s slinky guitar licks. A tight and direct transition saw Dead & Company then drop into the crowd-pleasing number “Bertha,” featuring more playful vocal harmonizing by Mayer and Weir to ring in the end of the number. From there, the group dived into an easy-going “Ramble on Rose” to close out the sequence, again highlighting Chimenti’s penchant for playing the blues.
Bobby, Oteil, and John shifted over to acoustics for “Friend of the Devil,” which was a true treat during the first set. With Weir’s stylized rhythm work twining through Mayer’s lead at the center of the song, the acoustic number was a breath of fresh air before the darker, smooth, and mournful “Loser,” again highlighting the chemistry between Mayer and Chimenti as they passed the lead between one another. “Brown Eyed Women,” sung by Mayer, brought the energy up as the group moved toward the final stretch of the first set, finally ending with a triumphant “Turn On Your Lovelight” ahead of set break.
For set two, again, Dead & Company started things off with a jam-oriented sequence, this time seeing the classic combination of “Help on the Way,” “Slipknot,” and “Franklin’s Tower” strung together. Shifting away from the blues-centric first set, the second set was focused on breaking out potent Grateful Dead powerhouses, with the first three numbers making for a transcendent start of the set. Giving the people what they want, again, Dead & Co let Oteil sing, with the bassist lending his dazzling voice once again for the mournful “China Doll” and gaining a huge response from the crowd. From there, the group moved into a serene “Dark Star,” made all the more tranquil by the patient and deliberate jamming during its introduction and Chimenti’s trickling ornamentation on the keys threading through the song and Mayer’s loose yet methodical guitar work.
Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower
“Dark Star” tapered off into the drums portion of the second set, which started with Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart leading in their tribal segment in unison. Contrasted with the particularly cacophonous “Drums” on Friday, Saturday’s drum portion was heavy and purposeful, and the depth and the weight of the percussion was intensified by the addition of Oteil, who came out and joined in. As “Drums” moved into “Space,” the heaviness of the segment before it carried over, with its bottom-heavy, ambient tone setting the mood for the first half of the number before Mayer’s atmospheric guitar came in and led the group in crawling toward “Stella Blue,” harkened in by Chimenti’s lyrical keys.
“Stella Blue” was an emotional affair, only highlighted by Bob Weir’s heart-wrenching vocals. It was a sublime moment, and across the musicians on stage, they all seemed tapped into the song’s power, crafting a gorgeous rendition of the song as the second set came to a close. To close out their final night at Folsom Field and still glowing from the climatic end to “Stella Blue,” the group moved freely into the ending sequence of “China > Rider.” Given the location, “I Know You Rider” has a special place in Colorado residents’ hearts, with the lines “I’d shine my light through cool Colorado rain” always eliciting a huge response from the crowd. The upbeat end to the second set with the seamless “China Cat Sunflower” through to “I Know You Rider” was a celebratory end to the run, particularly when considering that the well-loved combo rarely sees itself positioned as the final numbers of the second set, traditionally falling in the first set or used as a second-set opener. To truly end the night, the group appropriately returned with a spirited, easy-flowing “One More Saturday Night,” propelled by Chimenti rippin’ through the song on the keys.
You can listen to the audio from last night’s show, courtesy of Bennett Schwartz.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Folsom Field | Boulder, CO | 6/11/2017
Set One: Truckin’ > Smokestack Lightning > Spoonful > Bertha > Ramble on Rose, Friend of the Devil, Loser, Brown Eyed Women, Turn On Your Lovelight
Set Two: Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower, China Doll, Dark Star > Drums > Space > Stella Blue > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
Encore: One More Saturday Night
[Photo: Andrew Rios]