Dead & Company fans were treated to one of the finest performances of their final season run on Friday in the opener of the band’s doubleheader at one of Major League Baseball’s most venerated stadiums, Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs. The sea of smiling faces wasn’t just dancing in the streets to a surprising pop-up performance from Mr.Blotto before the show…they were dancing on the rooftops, aisles, and anywhere there was room enough to boogie once the Dead (and Company) took the stage.

Since 1914 Wrigley Field has been the site of some incredible performances and Friday’s show, particularly the second set, is definitely among them. Not that the first set wasn’t full of some stellar top-ten plays of the night. From the instant Dead & Company took the stage and went directly into “Playing in the Band”, guitarist John Mayer was playing like a man on a mission. Blues licks and heartfelt vocals poured out of Mayer on Friday like he was a fountain of raw emotion and musical energy that simply couldn’t be capped.

Dead & Company – “Playing In The Band” [Pro-Shot] – 6/9/23

“Deal” and “Tennessee Jed” followed in close order and had fans from the fields to the three-story rafters in full voice and dance mode but it was a startlingly powerful “It Hurts Me Too” that was the first point the audience realized they were in for something stellar. Mayer’s progression into a guitar powerhouse has been one of the true joys to watch over the Dead & Co’s eight years of existence and last night was a benchmark performance.

That’s not to say that the rest of the band was just laying back and taking it easy. Jeff Chimenti turned in some of his finest work, matching Mayer’s energy on organ during moments of highest energy and underscoring some of the more poignant lows with potent piano work. At the heart of the lineup were veteran guitarist Bob Weir and drummer Mickey Hart, both slugging away at tunes like “Ramble On Rose” and “Brown Eyed Women”. While the “Crazy Fingers” follow-up had Weir delivering some creaky vocals that showed signs of endless nights before this, he had able support from the ever-reliable Oteil Burbridge on first (and only) bass.

It was after the second set opening “Sugaree” that Dead & Company broke everything wide open in a display of musicianship that demonstrated exactly why the band is filling baseball stadiums 50 years after the Grateful Dead‘s original formation. In one, non-stop go they executed a ten-song run that likely ranks among the finest of their careers. Full of amazing turns by every player on the stage, the second set was the kind of showcase that makes lifelong fans out of first-time attendees. It was this sort of showing that caused fans of the progenitors of this music, the Grateful Dead themselves, to abandon their old lives and become music nomads following the jams across the lands.

Dead & Company – “Sugaree” [Pro-Shot] – 6/9/23

The streak started with Burbridge dropping stupefying, stadium-sized bass bombs on the field during “Estimated Prophet”. The intricate yet crazy powerful psychedelic jams during follow-ups “The Other One”, “Lady With A Fan”, and “Terrapin Station” were almost too much to follow. The timing, trust, and teamwork simply blew the minds of fans who had never seen a band go this hard this long. The transition into “Drums” and its always reliable partner-in-crime “Space” was up to the legends of old. Of note is the amazing four-string banjo work of Oteil to counterpoint drummers Hart and Jay Lane, the South American flavors that Hart layered into the middle section and the tortured, transcendental work of Mayer as they brought “Space” to a close and slid into “Stella Blue”.

Bringing the energy level and positive vibes to a full boil, Dead and Co threw out a feel-good, second-set closing trio of “Sugar Magnolia”, Scarlet Begonias”, and “Sunshine Daydream” that had the love meter needle buried and close to breaking. The “U.S. Blues” encore seemed somehow both welcome and fun yet somehow almost like Dead and Company were running up the score on an already, long ago won-over crowd. If this is the kind of show Dead & Co delivers in the middle of the farewell run, it’s safe to say the true winners are gonna be the fans with tickets in their hands for the remaining performances in this long goodbye.

Dead & Company – “It Hurts Me Too” (Tampa Red) – 6/9/23

[Video: Sojahsey1]

Dead & Company – “Brown-Eyed Women” – 6/9/23

[Video: The Zalewski Law Firm]

Dead & Company – “Lady With A Fan” > “Terrapin Station” – 6/9/23

[Video: The Zalewski Law Firm]

Dead & Company – “Sugar Magnolia” > “Scarlet Begonia” – 6/9/23

[Video: Nunupics Zomot]

Dead & Company – “U.S. Blues” – 6/9/23

[Video: Sojahsey1]

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Dead & Company – Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL – 6/9/23 – Full Audio

[Audio: Jeff Travitz]


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Setlist: Dead & Company | Wrigley Field | Chicago, IL | 6/9/23

Set 1: Playing In The Band > Deal > Tennesee Jed, It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red), Ramble On Rose, Brown-Eyed Women, Crazy Fingers > Dancing In The Streets (Martha & The Vandellas)

Set 2: Sugaree, Estimated Prophet > The Other One [1] > Lady With A Fan > Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > Stella Blue > Sugar Magnolia > Scarlet Begonias > Sunshine Daydream

Encore: U.S.Blues

[1] Verse 1 only