Dead & Company made their 2019 East Coast debut on Tuesday night at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. Band members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, John Mayer, Jeff Chimenti, and Oteil Burbridge visited SPAC together for the fourth time, delivering a solid performance with a variable setlist which drew from all eras of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band history.
The boys opened the show with a mellow “Feel Like a Stranger” before easing into “Hell in a Bucket”, which quickly gained momentum to the delight of a crowd that seems to constantly clamor for faster tempos. Mayer then took the reins for uptempo rocker “Alabama Getaway”, leading the audience through each endlessly shoutable chorus. A gorgeous rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” followed, preceding an especially tender take on “It Must’ve Been the Roses” (only its second performance by this band) featuring Mayer on lead vocals.
The band heated back up with a blistering “Cumberland Blues”, leaning heavily on the improvisational interplay between Chimenti and Mayer and relying on Burbridge to lay down the law on the bass. They then transitioned into “Cassidy”, which came on softly at first but tightened up tremendously in a virtuosic improvisational jam. Finally, an unexpected and spirited “U.S. Blues” wrapped up the first set.
Second set opener “Here Comes Sunshine” expanded into a lengthy jam that eventually disintegrated into a phenomenal performance of “Shakedown Street”. Though in the past Dead & Company has caught flak for overplaying this latter tune, the fact that they can still take the song in fresh musical directions is a testament to the longevity and flexibility of the arrangement, not just the popularity of the song.
A moody “Wharf Rat” came next, preceding the now-classic psychedelic pairing of “Playin’ in the Band” and “Uncle John’s Band”. These two tunes predictably led into “Drums”, which unpredictably featured Burbridge sitting in on Kreutzmann’s drum kit. The “Space” that followed was particularly long, full of staccato dissonance and cyclical rhythms inspired by a humongous luna moth that had landed on the stage.
After the musical moth madness, Weir and Mayer led the band through a raucous “Viola Lee Blues”. The true standout performance of the night, however, was certainly the Jerry Garcia Band-style cover of The Beatles‘ “Dear Prudence” that came next, which showcased Mayer’s most tasteful guitar soloing yet. An energetic “Casey Jones,” in which the band chose to emphasize Mayer’s soloing in the outro instead of going for their usual accelerando, capped the second set.
For the encore, the band dusted off Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” which they hadn’t played since July 13th, 2016 at First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. At long last, the reprise of “Playin’ in the Band” brought the show to a thunderous close.
While Saratoga Performing Arts Center isn’t quite as large as some of the other venues on this tour (Gillette Stadium has about three times the capacity of SPAC!), there’s just something about the homegrown, upstate New York/Vermont Deadhead vibe that makes each show there feel just like a family reunion.
Below, you can watch a pair of pro-shot videos from the SPAC performance.
Dead & Company – SPAC – “Feel Like A Stranger” [Pro-Shot]
[Video: Dead & Company]
Dead & Company – SPAC – “Here Comes Sunshine” [Pro-Shot]
[Video: Dead & Company]
Catch Dead & Company next this Thursday, June 20th, at BB&T Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Saratoga Performing Arts Center | Saratoga Springs, NY | 6/18/19
Set 1: Feel Like a Stranger, Hell in a Bucket, Alabama Getaway, When I Paint My Masterpiece, It Must’ve Been the Roses, Cumberland Blues, Cassidy, U.S. Blues
Set 2: Here Comes Sunshine, Shakedown Street, Wharf Rat, Playin’ in the Band, Uncle John’s Band, Drums, Space, Viola Lee Blues, Dear Prudence, Casey Jones
Encore: In the Midnight Hour, Playin’ in the Band (reprise)