Dead & Company came high-stepping into town on Tuesday for a concert at Cincinnati, OH’s Riverbend Music Center. The band’s final swing through the Buckeye State witnessed the resurrection of a Ronald “Pigpen” McKernan-era blues cover.

Fittingly, Dead & Company opened the show with “The Music Never Stopped”. Bob Weir‘s opening line, “There’s mosquitos on the river,” floated through the outdoor amphitheater as the Ohio River flowed nearby. The band beyond description then dug into its bag of tricks with “Next Time You See Me”, a relic of the Grateful Dead‘s early days as a psychedelic blues band fronted by Pigpen. Originally performed by Junior Parker, the song appeared sporadically in Dead shows through the late ’60s and into the early ’70s. Tuesday marked Dead & Company’s 11th performance of the song since 2016, per Phantasy Tour.

Dead & Company – “The Music Never Stopped” [Pro-Shot] – 6/13/23

Bobby then took the Midwest crowd on a southern excursion with “Me & My Uncle” before heading back north via the same Ohio River with “Row Jimmy”. Ceding vocal duties to John Mayer, Bobby freed up his hands to row his guitar like an oar as the band bobbed along the song’s gentle rhythmic stream.

Keeping the vibe low and easy, the band dropped into the increasingly common first set movement of Traffic‘s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” into The Beatles‘ “Hey Jude” reprise. The towering energetic crescendo steamrolled the band into the cosmic comparison “Cassidy”, the freewheeling spirit of Neal Cassady giving the band one last push through an “Iko Iko” singalong to end the first set.

With the sun sinking low above Riverbend, John Mayer fired off the jubilant opening notes to “Here Comes Sunshine”. The Dead’s early spirit was alive and well on Tuesday in Cinci, as Dead & Co traveled back to the Primal Dead era for “Viola Lee Blues”. The aura of ’60s San Francisco wasn’t confined solely to the music, as drummers Jay Lane and Mickey Hart both donned “Owsley” t-shirts referencing Owsley “Bear” Stanley III, famed LSD chemist and the Grateful Dead’s first soundman and financial benefactor. This particular rendition of “Viola Lee Blues” heard keyboardist Jeff Chimenti throw in teases of The Meters‘ iconic “Cissy Strut” during the blues vamp.

Dead & Company – “Here Comes Sunshine”, “Viola Lee Blues” [Pro-Shot] – 6/13/23

Though the band tried to ward off any impending precipitation with the sunny set opener, Weir ultimately relented and got out his musical rain poncho for “Looks Like Rain”. The classic pairing of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider” then ceded control of the show to Lane, Hart, and bassist Oteil Burbridge for “Drums” and “Space”.

Returning back to the Earth’s atmosphere, more meteorological references ensued with “The Wheel” (“If the thunder don’t get ya then the lightning will”). For the post-space ballad, Bobby delivered the cautionary tale of August West with “Wharf Rat” before the band chugged along the tracks with a roaring set-closing “Casey Jones”. Coming back out for an encore, Dead & Company finished its final trip to Ohio’s Queen City with the eternal anthem of perseverance, “Touch of Grey”.

Dead & Company’s The Final Tour continues Thursday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Visit the band’s website for tickets and a full list of tour dates.

Setlist: Dead & Company | Riverbend Music Center | Cincinnati, OH | 6/13/23

Set One: The Music Never Stopped, Next Time You See Me (Junior Parker), Me & My Uncle, Row Jimmy, Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic) > Hey Jude (Reprise) (The Beatles) > Cassidy > Iko Iko

Set Two: Here Comes Sunshine, Viola Lee Blues > Looks Like Rain > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (Traditional) > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Wharf Rat > Casey Jones

Encore: Touch of Grey