Dead & Company returned to The Gorge Amphitheatre last night to finish the penultimate weekend run of the band’s Final Tour with one more rip-roaring Saturday night on the majestic Columbia River.

Once again, the sun was hot overhead with a temperature of 95 degrees as Bob Weir, John Mayer, Mickey Hart, Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti, and Jay Lane took the stage. The band was in fine form, especially Mayer, who seemed to jolt the rest of the group and the sun-baked crowd awake with his high-energy fretwork.

After reveling in the wonders of nature down by the riverside on Friday, Dead & Company opened Saturday’s show with a pair of songs appropriate to the set and setting, “Mississippi Hal-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, with its “Across the Rio Grand-eo/lazy river” ending, and “Here Comes Sunshine”.

Dead & Company – “Mississippi Hal-Step Uptown Toodeloo” – 7/8/23

Next came a pair of bluesy tunes showcasing Weir and Mayer’s shared mastery of the genre—first Junior Parker‘s “Next Time You See Me” and then a particularly grooving “Loose Lucy” that included a geographically relevent tease of “Take Me To The River”. Mayer helmed the ship with his lead playing, prodding the band to keep up as he unleashed a cascade of lyrical licks.

A laid back rendition of “Friend of the Devil” shifted the mood, and the chill vibes continued with a reggae-tinged “They Love Each Other”, except, that is, during a brief Chimenti organ solo that whipped the crowd into a frenzy with astonishing efficiency before settling back into the groove.

Transitioning to “Lost Sailor” and then “Saint of Circumstance”, Weir showcased his seasoned pipes and poetic wisdom as Mayer complemented the contemplative compositions with buoyant Jerry Garcia-esqe fretwork.

Following another sweltering set break that saw several exhausted fans taken out on stretchers, Dead & Company returned for set two ready to kick things into high gear. The band loosened up with a psychedelic “Playing in the Band” jam that segued right into a cosmic contemplation of “The Wheel”. The band could not stand still as the song morphed into an island-flavored jam that elevated the show to a new energetic peak before suddenly and spontaneously dropping back down for a patient return to “Playing in the Band”.

Dead & Company – “Playing In The Band” – 7/8/23

Mayer and Weir conferred with each other before the next song. The result of their negotiation? A magnificent sequence of “St. Stephen” > “The Eleven” via “William Tell Bridge”. Mayer, who was clearly feeling loose at this point, added a blues rock flare to the psychedelic sequence, taking the audience on a joyous ride as the rhythm section of Chimenti, Burbridge, and Lane pushed the energy to greater heights.

In a rare moment of onstage aggression, Bob Weir slapped his microphone off its stand after it gave up on him during “The Eleven”. Mayer adorably walked over to pick up the mic and placed it back on its stand. He even took a moment to pick up Weir’s slide, which had also fallen off the stand. Something about the interaction, with the comparatively young pop star tenderly aiding his elder rock star mentor, was heartwarming.

The Mickey never stopped as the band concluded “The Eleven” and entered right into “Drums”. The first portion of the psychedelic percussion party was particularly fruitful with the combination of Oteil on bass banjo, Mickey on xylophone, and Jay providing danceable drum grooves. The trio tapped into something primal, and the audience responded with boisterous cheers.

Dead & Co. then traveled through “Space” to arrive at “Dark Star”, which was left unfinished after a single verse on Friday. After completing the second half of the song, the band offered two thoughtful tunes, one sung by Mayer and one by Weir starting with the Mayer-led “Althea”, a song with special significance for the duo since it was the first one they played together on The Late Late Show in 2015 (and what a long strange trip its been since then!). The audience hung on Weir’s every word as the elder statesman of jam crooned “Stella Blue”.

With the venue’s 11 p.m. curfew rapidly approaching, Bobby and the boys finished up with “One More Saturday Night”. Though a predictable choice on any given Saturday, the song struck an emotional chord with the audience, for most of whom this was the last “One More Saturday Night” of the band’s final tour.

Only “One More Saturday Night” remains as Dead & Company wind down their final outing with a three-night run in San Francisco. After that, who knows? But we will get by, as long as the music never stops.

Dead & Company – “Playing In The Band” Reprise – 7/8/23

[Video: Mark Krzos]

Dead & Company – “Althea” – 7/8/23

[Video: Mark Krzos]

Setlist: Dead & Company | The Gorge Amphitheatre | George, WA | 7/8/23

Set 1: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Here Comes Sunshine, Next Time You See Me (Junior Parker), Loose Lucy (‘Take Me to the River’ tease), Friend of the Devil, They Love Each Other, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance

Set 2: Playing in the Band > The Wheel (> ‘Playing in the Band’ reprise), St. Stephen (> ‘William Tell Bridge’ >), The Eleven > Drums > Space > Dark Star (verse 2) > Althea, Stella Blue > One More Saturday Night