On Monday, Dead & Company, the Grateful Dead spinoff band featuring former Dead rhythm guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir and Dead drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, continued their 2018 summer tour with the first of two San Francisco Bay Area hometown shows at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. The band, rounded out by lead guitarist and vocalist John Mayer, bassist Oteil Burbridge, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, arrived at home facing high expectations after a pair of standout shows in Washington and Oregon over the previous weekend, with the former featuring a 70s’-only set and the latter featuring a second set comprised of late 60s classics along with an unusually direct homage to the Grateful Dead’s legendary show in nearby Veneta, OR on August 27th, 1972.
But just like their parent band was so wont to do, Dead & Company came out and played a strong show that demonstrated the depth and diversity of their strengths, deploying a setlist which focused much more heavily on Bob Weir/John Barlow songs, with a first set pulling from all eras of the Dead and a second set which, on paper looked like it was from 1983…and it was all led by a locked-in, focused and driven Bob Weir.
As the band took the stage just before 7:30, anyone sitting on the stage right section of the venue would had a hard time missing the large “FUCK CHARUCKI” banner that had been hung in the wings on stage left as a tribute to the gruff-on-the-outside, heart-of-gold-on-the-inside Chris Charucki, Bob’s longtime stage manager and production manager who passed away in April.
The band wasted no time with pleasantries or warm-up songs, dropping nearly half an hour of Mutron pedal-based funk on the attentive crowd with “Feel Like A Stranger” followed by the tour debut of “Dancin’ In The Street”, using the Dead’s late 70’s “disco” arrangement. After Bob led the vocal charge on each song, the lengthy instrumental passages in each were highlighted by John walking over to face Bob and playing leads that afforded Weir the opportunity to play “rhythm co-leads” in his distinct style with great results. Meanwhile, Oteil’s lickety-split bass lines during the jam in “Dancin’” managed to keep pace with the John and Bob show, and the fact that he was noticeably higher in the mix than usual served to highlight his contributions here and elsewhere throughout the night.
Dead & Company – “Feel Like A Stranger” [Pro-Shot]
The following song, “It Hurts Me Too”, the recently-revived Elmore James-penned classic that was sung by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan in the early 70s was a glaring genre (and tempo) switch, but John’s bluesy vocals and tasteful solo set the table for the set’s most delicate song: the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter deep cut “If I Had The World To Give”. It was only performed three times by the Dead in 1978 before being shelved but has found new life as a current-day “Oteil song” with Dead & Co, as the bassist’s smooth vocals preceded a nice end-of-song solo by Mayer.
Dead & Company – “It Hurts Me Too”
[Video: Borrowed Tune]
Next up was “Corrina”, a 90s-era Dead song that has long been a source of contention for many Deadheads. However, “Corrina” actually plays to the strengths of Dead & Company. Gone are the electronic samples, tinny keyboards and strained backing vocals from the early 90’s Grateful Dead versions—the Dead & Company rendering has an easy-rocking flow to it and sands off the harder edges of the original. Once again, during the mid-song jam, John moved in close to Bob and play a lead that set Bob up to play a nice “rhythm co-lead” that was well-received, even amongst those who might still struggle with the song itself.
Mayer then took over for the set’s highlight, a version of “They Love Each Other” that featured a nice Jeff solo on the Hammond B3 organ before John closed the song out with a truly spectacular solo, in which a couple of clear stylistic nods to Eric Clapton preceded several full-on power chords with dramatic arm flourishes—yet another example of John Mayer taking an old song to a new height. The set closed with a solid version of “Throwing Stones”, completing an unusual choice of songs for a band that relies heavily on the Garcia/Hunter section of the Grateful Dead catalog: 3 Weir originals, 2 covers, 1 Garcia staple and 1 Garcia deep cut.
Dead & Company – “Throwing Stones”
[Video: Gregory Marcus]
The second set picked up right where the first set left off, with two of Bob’s most complex “signature” songs appearing in their traditional back-to-back pairing. “Lost Sailor” and “Saint Of Circumstance”, both from the Grateful Dead’s 1980 Go To Heaven LP, remain an endearing mini-symphony. All of the pairing’s various twists and turns and corners and changes over the space of 16 minutes eventually led to “Sailor” being dropped from the Dead’s repertoire in 1986 and “Saint” making less frequent appearances during the Dead’s final decade, outside of Bruce Hornsby’s 2-year tenure with the band. Tonight, however, the sequence was performed flawlessly, with nary a missed vocal by a band that was intently following Weir’s direction and subtle cues.
Dead & Company – “Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance” [Pro-Shot]
“He’s Gone” followed, and this version was immediately set apart by its slightly faster tempo, which maintained the tight, professional vibe that was already in abundance at Shoreline. Bob’s vocal delivery was more straightforward than usual, and the closing jam remained a bluesy affair that was augmented by John dropping in a few lines of falsetto vocals while images of Charucki and Pigpen flashed on the screens behind the band.
Dead & Company – “He’s Gone”
[Video: Borrowed Tune]
Instead of transitioning into the expected “Truckin’” or “Smokestack Lightning”, the “He’s Gone” jam wound down to allow the opening chords of “Help On The Way” to burst through the PA to a huge cheer. Once again, the band made one of the more complex songs in the repertoire look easy as John made his way through the verses and led the band into “Slipknot”, where it became his turn to shine. Over the space of several minutes of jazz-based improv, John reached into his bag of tricks to offer up his own distinct finger-picking alongside Eddie Van Halen-style finger taps, Steve Howe-style sliding chords, and maybe even a Jerry Garcia-style run or two in the space of four minutes, all while Weir provided harmonic counterpoint with taut riffing of his own. The song’s closing jam was also played at a noticeably faster tempo and led to the expected “Franklin’s Tower”, which allowed band and crowd to cut loose with some three-chord rock ‘n’ roll happiness for 13 minutes, including a brief reprise of the “If I Had The World To Give” theme by Jeff and John as Oteil looked on, smiling broadly.
Dead & Company – “Help On The Way”
[Video: Gregory Marcus]
Dead & Company – “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower”
[Video: Gregory Marcus]
Oteil quickly doffed his bass and joined Billy and Mickey for the “Drums” interlude, and the trio set up and maintained an insistent, tribal beat for much of the segment before leaving Mickey alone to rattle the venue when he kicked and shook The Beam. The distinctive instrument’s monochord continued to ring out as Hart walked off, leaving the stage completely empty for a bit until the guitarists and Jeff returned to craft a sparse, mellow, four-minute “Space” that recalled the Dead’s more minimal 80’s versions.
From there, the band led into another signature choice from the Bob Weir catalog, “The Other One”, a short-and-sweet version that featured Oteil’s take on the famous bass intro and a distinct bluesy version of the jam that usually falls between verses, though the band would forego the song’s second verse. Like the rest of the set that came before it, this version was tight and focused. While it didn’t hit one of those huge peaks that are known to happen in this song, it didn’t need to, as the sheer cohesion onstage did the trick all by itself.
“Wharf Rat” followed as the expected ballad, highlighted by two searing Mayer solos at its conclusion, and “Not Fade Away” brought the 99-minute set to a close with the help of a couple call-and-response solos between John and Jeff. And even though it was now past 11:00 pm, the band was allowed to return to the stage and knock out a “Touch Of Grey” encore to wrap things up.
This was a standout night for Bob Weir, who drew much more heavily from his own catalog of songs than usual and delivered a forceful performance to match. On top of that, a look back through Deadbase revealed that tonight’s second set content was one song away from being identical to the Grateful Dead’s Binghamton, NY show from April 12, 1983, a highlight (and a widely circulated tape) from the “Dirty 80’s” era when Bob had to carry the band at times. Coincidence? Yes, of course…but a fitting one nonetheless.
Check out a gallery of photos from night one at Shoreline Amphitheater below via photographer Matt Rea.
Dead & Company returns to Shoreline Amphitheater to close our their two-night stand tonight, Tuesday, July 3rd. For a full list of Dead & Co’s upcoming dates, head here.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Shoreline Amphitheater | Mountain View, CA | 7/2/18
Set One: Feel Like A Stranger, Dancin’ In the Street, It Hurts Me Too, If I Had The World To Give, Corrina, They Love Each Other, Throwing Stones
Set Two: Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > He’s Gone, Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower > Drums/Space > The Other One* > Wharf Rat > Not Fade Away
Encore: Touch of Grey
A full soundboard recording of the performance is available via Nugs.net.