On Monday night, Dead & Company continued their run of fall tour makeup shows with a performance at BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL, located in Broward County. The county has been under the national microscope since February 14th, when a horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers. In the wake of the tragic events, the school’s brave students have galvanized the country into action, actively challenging lawmakers to institute common sense gun control measures. During a CNN Town Hall that took place in Sunrise last week, MSD student Cameron Kasky put Senator Marco Rubio (R) on the spot on national TV, challenging him to stop taking campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.
Just like the rest of the country, the members of Dead & Company were amazed at the courage and fortitude of these kids, and they took the opportunity to thoroughly recognize them while they were in town. The band invited a large group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to the performance (including Kasky, pictured below with Oteil Burbridge, Mickey Hart, and John Mayer), taking the time to get to know them beforehand. As the band remarked when they posted their setlist after the show, “They all love each other, Lord can you see it’s true. A truly inspiring night in Florida.”
You can read some thoughts from the band on the experience below:
After meeting with the kids, the band took the stage for their performance, the majority of which seemed noticeably tied to themes of togetherness, unity, and love in their honor. In addition to the common thematic thread in the song selections, both Burbridge and Bob Weir wore #MSDStrong t-shirts throughout the show. As the performance went on, the other band members began to don their own #MSDStrong shirts as well. By the time they took their encore bows, all six band members were wearing maroon for the brave students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
Dead & Company opened with “Shakedown Street” before moving into “Cassidy” without skipping a beat, Mayer and Weir both adding vocals to each tune. Next, Burbridge stepped to the mic, delivering a tender rendition of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballad “Comes A Time”.
Mayer took the vocal reins from there, leading the band through a rendition of “They Love Each Other”, which proved to be both the improvisational and emotional centerpiece of the set following the pre-show rendezvous with the MSD students. “Bird Song” came next, and the tune fluttered into “New Speedway Boogie” before returning to “Bird Song” for a brief reprise. Finally, a roaring “Deal” closed set one, with Mayer leading the charge on both guitar and vocals.
Dead & Company returned to the stage for set two with another love and togetherness anthem, The Band classic “The Weight”. The all-for-one theme continued with a relatively brief “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot!”. Rather than moving into “Franklin’s Tower” to complete the classic trio, the band took a left turn into “Eyes of the World”, which they built out past the 17-minute mark before bleeding into “Dark Star”.
The transitive nightfall of “Dark Star” signaled the beginning of a particularly spacey segment of the show, as the jam tumbled and turned through the cosmos. A typically chest-thumping “Drums > Space” followed before eventually coalescing into a wistful “Days Between” whose decades-old lyrics seemed specifically picked to pay tribute to the young souls lost on Valentine’s Day. The band closed the set with an appropriately defiant “Throwing Stones”, the song’s lyrics (“So the kids they dance and shake their bones/And the politician’s throwing stones”) perhaps never ringing as true as they did on this emotional evening in Sunrise.
Finally, Dead & Company returned to encore with perhaps their most optimistic tune, “Touch of Grey”. After the widespread devastation and anger spawned by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the band, the MSD kids, and the rest of the crowd sang together one last time, thoroughly feeling the emotional weight of Robert Hunter’s words: “We will get by. We will survive.”
Dead & Company has one more make-up show tonight in Orlando. After that, the band will be off the road until the start of their summer tour in Mansfield, MA on May 30th. For a full list of summer dates, head to the band’s website.
You can listen to full audio of Dead & Company’s Sunrise, FL performance and check out a beautiful gallery of photos from the performance (via photographer Chris Burgess) below:
[Audio: taper Dan Nolan, Jr. (spyder9)]
Setlist: Dead & Company | BB&T Center | Sunrise, FL | 2/26/18
Set One: Shakedown Street > Cassidy, Comes a Time, They Love Each Other, Bird Song > New Speedway Boogie > Bird Song (reprise), Deal
Set Two: The Weight, Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Dark Star > Drums > Space > Days Between > Throwin’ Stones
Encore: Touch of Grey