Dead & Company rolled into hometown favorite shed Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY for a first-day-of-summer performance. The band came in riding a wave of momentum after their excellent two-night run at Fenway Park this past weekend, and while they may not have reached the impressive heights they hit in Boston, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti still gave the weeknight crowd plenty to get excited about.
Set one featured a relatively predictable but enjoyable mix of heavy rotation tunes like “Hell In A Bucket,” “Loose Lucy,” “Dire Wolf,” and a set-closing “Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance” pairing, which made its third appearance of the summer but its first as the set closing segment (the first two renditions, in Phoenix and Utah, opened set two of their respective shows). The emotional high-point of the first set, however, was the sun shower and ensuing rainbow that spread over the SPAC grounds during “Looks Like Rain,” evoking the feelings of intangible cosmic significance that always seem to surround the Dead and their music. Of course, it was no Santa Clara Fare Thee Well rainbow, but it was pretty damn magical all the same. (Photo via Nickel B):
Set two felt primed for a big old “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” (not played since 6/10 at Folsom Field) to get the train rolling, and those who made that prediction turned out to be both right and wrong in their guesses. The set began with “China Cat Sunflower,” but instead of “Rider,” the band took a left turn into Garcia/Hunter favorite “Deal.”
With John Mayer well within his comfort zone on lead vocals and guitar for the blues-steeped tune, the band took the opportunity to open the musical floodgates, as they built to a cacophonous blues-rock peak and even worked in a brief but fun and light-hearted “vocal jam” before moving into “China Doll.” The tune has been appearing with increasing frequency since bassist Oteil Burbridge took over vocal duties, and his haunting performances have been a welcome addition to the Dead & Company bag of tricks.
From there, the band kicked into an always-welcome run through the bands iconic “Terrapin” suite, with Mayer handling “Lady With A Fan” and Bob Weir singing the “Terrapin Station” refrain. The tune is a regular-rotation set centerpiece for this Dead incarnation, and they seem more comfortable with it each time through. The tempo has risen from the Dead & Co’s first few sluggishly slow renditions in their early days, and the well-earned confidence that has begun to compliment Mayer’s reverence for Garcia’s magnum opus is paying off in spades with each successive performance.
“Terrapin” moved into “Drums/Space,” and out of the ensuing mist rose Bob Dylan‘s classic “All Along The Watchtower,” a 2017 tour debut which, coincidentally, had its Dead & Co debut exactly one year prior at BB&T Pavillion in Camden. While the song was a fun choice in theory, it was more than a little disorganized. Bobby seemed to forget a handful of lyrics, and the uneven cadence of his vocals as he eventually got them out gave the song a rhythmically lopsided feel. The band leaned into that significant looseness, even sliding into a Wailers-style reggae jam for a few brief moments.
Eventually, the song resolved into a slinky reading of “Black Peter,” the band’s first since their Las Vegas tour opener. As “Black Peter” petered out, the band closed out the set with a methodical “I Know You Rider” to cap the “extended” “China” > “Rider” that began with the set opener. Finally, the band returned for a sing-along “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” encore that saw Weir, Mayer, and Burbridge each lead a verse.
You can listen to full audio of Dead & Company’s SPAC performance below, thanks to taper Bill Goldberg via archive.org user binto37:
You can also check out some high-quality crowd-shot videos from the show below, courtesy of YouTube user Sean Roche:
“Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance”
“I Know You Rider”
SETLIST: Dead & Company | Saratoga Performing Arts Center | 6/20/17
Set One: Hell In A Bucket, Next Time You See Me, Loose Lucy, Mississippi Half Step, Looks Like Rain, Dire Wolf, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance
Set Two: China Cat Sunflower > Deal, China Doll, Lady With A Fan > Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > All Along The Watchtower > Black Peter > I Know You Rider
Encore: Going Down The Road Feeling Bad
Dead & Company tour continues tomorrow with a performance at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA before the band hits New York City with a show at Citi Field on Saturday, 6/24. For a full list of upcoming dates, head to the band’s website.
Enjoy the full gallery from last night’s performance below, courtesy of Dave DeCrescente!