Dead & Company returned to the Golden Shore of California on Wednesday for a show at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista. The concert, just outside of San Diego, comes ahead of the band’s three-night Halloween run at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Taking to the stage, it was welcomed to once again see the band—comprised of Bob WeirBill KreutzmannMickey HartJohn MayerOteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti—donning summer duds as the band returns to warmer climates following a chilly trek up the mountains of Colorado. The cool coastal air did them well as they started the California run off proper with “The Music Never Stopped”.

A slightly shaky lyrical entry from Weir ultimately gave way to Mayer’s serene leads, which smoothed over any and all doubt. The blissful levity of “The Music Never Stopped” soon gave way to the low rumble of Bob’s latter-era Grateful Dead contribution, “Easy Answers”. The formidable frontman delivered the song with some defiant sass, offering sparing lead guitar phrasings as JonBo took charge of the rhythm for a change.

The foray into the darkness of “Easy Answers” was fleeting, however, as Dead & Company emerged once again on the other side into the bliss of “The Music Never Stopped”. Mayer then got his time to shine as he paddled out to sea upon the calming waves of “Row Jimmy”. Some gentle bobbing upon the sea courtesy of Oteil allowed for delicate punctuations from Mayer, rocking upon the coastal breeze from the Pacific.

Dead & Company – “The Music Never Stopped” > “Easy Answers” > “The Music Never Stopped” – 10/27/21

The descending notation of “Friend of the Devil” sent serotonin soaring throughout North Island Amp, with Bob delivering crisp vocals. The storyteller in Weir came out in full force with this lyrically-driven performance, passing the baton back and forth with Mayer. It was then Jeff Chimenti’s time to shine as Dead & Company took us down to the mine for “Cumberland Blues”. The pianist’s honky-tonk piano shone like a diamond beneath a sea of stars, reflecting the light emanating from John’s PRS.

Riding that crest of energy, the band fired up “Cassidy” which teased—of all things—Tears for Fears‘ “Head Over Heels”. The flight of the seabirds eventually found its way to a set-closing “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo”.

As the opening notes of “St. Stephen” chimed off for set two, it was immediately apparent the second frame would be no slouch. The Primal Dead staple carries with it a high expectation of improvisational exploration, upon which the band delivered. The reins of the jam were confidently carried by Mayer, propelling the song just shy of the 20-minute mark. Time was no luxury as the band made its own pace to start set two.

Dead & Company – “St. Stephen” – 10/27/21

Dead & Company kept it old school as the drum march coda of “William Tell Bridge” led into “The Eleven”. The feat of unconventional musical timing penned by Phil Lesh presented a formidable challenge that the ensemble conquered as The Rhythm Devils led the way, with Mayer and Chimenti journeying down various adjoining avenues.

Things got more conventional as the band settled into “He’s Gone”, capitalizing on what has become one of Dead & Company’s most reliable jam vehicles. The song’s sentimentality soon faded away, leaving audiences with nothing but the pulsating rhythm of Bill and Mickey for “Drums”. Though no two “Drums” are ever alike, the instrumental segment felt familiar once again with Kreutzmann firmly planted behind the kit, marking just his second show since missing four straight in Colorado.

The ambient ether of “Space” brought the rest of the group back out before Bobby hit the gas for the first “I Need A Miracle” of fall tour. Though the Halloween run doesn’t begin until Friday, things got spooky a bit early with an eerie telling of Rev. Gary Davis‘ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”. The combination of Weir’s seasoned vocals and Mayer’s blues chops lent an authenticity to the telling, making it fittingly frightening.

Any lingering fears were soon dispelled by a quick-hit “Good Lovin'” to close out the second set on a high note. Returning to the stage one more time, Mayer took the lead on one of the last great Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballad’s, “Black Muddy River”, to send everyone home with just the right amount of melancholy.

Dead & Company travels to Los Angeles for a sold-out three-night Halloween run at the Hollywood Bowl October 29th–31st. Visit the band’s website for a full list of dates.

Setlist: Dead & Company | North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre | Chula Vista, CA | 10/27/21

Set One: The Music Never Stopped > Easy Answers > The Music Never Stopped, Row Jimmy, Friend of the Devil, Cumberland Blues, Cassidy [1] > Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo

Set Two: St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge > The Eleven > He’s Gone > New Speedway Boogie > Drums > Space > I Need A Miracle > Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Good Lovin’

Encore: Black Muddy River

[1] “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears tease