Over the past 30-plus years, the Grateful Dead and its descendants have built a storied relationship with the 24,970-capacity amphitheater in Noblesville, IN. The original Dead played the venue then known as Deer Creek Music Center 14 times between 1989 (two months after it opened) through the band’s final tour in 1995. Even though the Grateful Dead dissolved in 1995 following the death of Jerry Garcia, the band is still second on the list of most all-time shows at the venue (behind Jimmy Buffett).

Deer Creek became a flagship stop for the Dead from 1989–1995, but the band’s final appearance at Deer Creek came to epitomize the downward spiral of Deadhead culture. As the band played to a fully illuminated house in response to anonymous death threats aimed at Garcia prior to the show, scores of ticketless fans stormed the back fence and forcibly entered the lawn. Watching the chaos unfold, Garcia suggested the band “get out of here” since “a riot was going on outside” and there was no need to “drag this on.” The band ultimately canceled its second show at Deer Creek the following day.

In the intervening years since Garcia’s death and the spawn of Dead & Company, this Grateful Dead offshoot has proven able to shake off the lingering darkness once associated with the Noblesville venue. Even as Live Nation handed over the naming rights to Verizon, Klipsch Group, Inc., and ultimately Ruoff Home Mortgage in 2017—a sobering sign of the times as disheartening as Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff managing Dead & Company—the band has managed to reignite the joy that brings tens of thousands of fans out to a cornfield in rural Indiana. The band’s seven visits to Noblesville, IN since 2016 still stand among the finest of each respective tour. A Deer Creek by any other name would sound just as sweet.

That reverence for the space was on full display on Tuesday as Dead & Company ignited what could possibly have been the last Dead show at the venue with a high-energy “Bertha” opener. The song likely struck a chord with many in the audience with its line, “Test me, test me / Why don’t you arrest me,” as reports of heightened police presence appeared on social media.

But if the intervening years at Ruoff Music Center (a.k.a. Deer Creek, a.k.a. Verizon Wireless Music Center, a.k.a. Klipsch Music Center) have shown anything, it’s that Dead & Company are able to overcome whatever bad vibes the slowly crumbling outside world throws at them, something Bob Weir did with gusto on “Good Lovin'”. As Bobby ad-libbed through the classic Young Rascals cover, he was clearly feeling the good lovin’ emanating from the crowd.

Dead & Company – “Bertha”, “Good Lovin'” (The Young Rascals) [Pro-Shot] – 6/27/23

Tuesday’s first set contained some welcome surprises in Dead & Company’s increasingly solidified and borderline predictable songbook, including the tour debut of “It Must Have Been The Roses”. As the band roared down Johnny Cash‘s “Big River”, there was no time to slow down for the exciting and long-awaited conclusion of the “Dark Star” that began on night one at Fenway Park, so the band trucked through at full speed for the arrangement since dubbed “Dark Star on the Big River”.

Another less frequent song choice came with Junior Parker‘s “Next Time You See Me”, as guitarist John Mayer put his blues chops on full display. Reaching back for a classic “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, Dead & Company let off an improvisational warning shot with a deep “Bird Song” before segueing into a cautionary meta “Don’t Ease Me In” to polish off the first frame.

Related: Grateful Dead Retrospective: Peaking At Deer Creek, 1989-1991 [Listen]

Though Noblesville, IN is about as far from New Orleans as one can get culturally in the U.S., Dead & Company seasoned Ruoff with some cajun flavors by way of an “Iko Iko” set two opener. After “Sugaree”, the band delivered second set staples “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” and a jam with “Uncle John’s Band” that flowed into “Drums” and “Space”. Bobby clearly had some gas left in the tank, sandwiching the fourth “Wharf Rat” of the year between high-energy takes on “Hell in a Bucket” and “Turn On Your Lovelight” to close the set.

Dead & Company – “Iko Iko” (James “Sugar Boy” Crawford And His Cane Cutters), “Sugaree” [Pro-Shot] – 6/27/23

Looking out over the crowd once more, Dead & Company delivered the tireless anthem of perseverance “Touch of Grey”, its refrain of “We will get by / We will survive” ringing out as surviving members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart inch ever closer to concluding this latest chapter of the Grateful Dead legacy.

Check out some fan-shot videos from Dead & Company in Noblesville from The Zalewski Law Firm.

Dead & Company – “It Must Have Been The Roses” – 6/27/23

Dead & Company – “Bird Song” – 6/27/23

Dead & Company – “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” (Traditional) – 6/27/23

Dead & Company – “Wharf Rat” > “Turn On Your Lovelight” (Bobby “Blue” Bland) – 6/27/23

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Setlist: Dead & Company | Ruoff Music Center | Noblesville, IN | 6/27/23

Set One: Bertha > Good Lovin’ (The Young Rascals), It Must Have Been the Roses [1], Big River (Johnny Cash) > Dark Star [2], Next Time You See Me (Junior Parker), Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Bird Song > Don’t Ease Me In (Traditional)

Set Two: Iko Iko (James “Sugar Boy” Crawford and his Cane Cutters), Sugaree, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (Traditional) > Uncle John’s Band > Drums > Space > Hell in a Bucket > Wharf Rat > Turn On Your Lovelight

Encore: Touch of Grey

[1] LTP 7/1/22

[2] Verse 2, completed 6/24/23