On Saturday night, Dead & Company returned to New York’s Citi Field for their second time in as many nights. Marking the eleventh show of this summer tour, Dead & Co continued to dig their heels deeper into the Grateful Dead‘s expansive repertoire, completing their first-ever trek through a staple live Dead suite (“St. Stephen” > “William Tell” > “The Eleven”).
An apparent shortage of ticket scanners—in addition to a noticeably larger crowd than the previous night—delayed large portions of the crowd at the gates, forcing many to listen to the band’s opening “Sugar Magnolia”, “Mississippi Half-Step”, and “Peggy-O” from outside the stadium’s walls. Both the crowd and the band seemed to settle in by the time John Mayer took the reigns for a “Bertha” dance party.
Dead & Company – “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” > “Peggy-O” [Pro-Shot]
Next, bassist Oteil Burbridge stepped to the mic to deliver his tender reading of Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballad “Comes A Time”. The song has become a go-to Oteil tune in the past year but packed an extra emotional punch as it returned to Citi Field, the same venue where they debuted the song last summer.
A breezy “Jack-A-Roe” followed, providing a breather before a focused “Bird Song” > “New Speedway Boogie” > “Bird Song” sandwich took the band into set break flying high. After night one’s first set ended with a whimper on a somewhat disjointed “The Music Never Stopped” > “Easy Answers” segment, the ending of Saturday’s first frame was creative and flawlessly executed, a fortuitous omen for what was still to come.
A thumping “Help On The Way” set the pace in the second set’s opening slot before faithfully flowing into “Slipknot!” and, finally, a truly excellent “Franklin’s Tower”, which built to a powerful peak behind Jeff Chimenti‘s fantastic organ work. It was Mayer, however, who pushed this rendition over the top, commanding the classic anthem with a palpable air of confidence that he’s dutifully built over the course of his tenure in the world of the Dead.
Dead & Company – “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” [Pro-Shot]
“Help”/”Slip”/”Franklin’s” have largely remained a package deal with Dead & Company, as they were for the Grateful Dead. However, not all of the Dead’s classic live suites have retained their groupings with Dead & Company. “St. Stephen” has been a staple of Dead & Co setlists since the band’s inception in 2015, but the “William Tell Bridge” > “The Eleven” that customarily followed the song in Grateful Dead days has remained notably absent.
On Saturday night, after pushing through some early lyrical flubs for an energetic and exploratory “St. Stephen”, the band steered into “William Tell”, building tension behind some mesmerizing guitar work from Mayer before diving into the cathartic release of “The Eleven”. The calypso-flavored favorite, so named for its unusual 11/8 time signature, couldn’t have hit its mark more perfectly. Bob Weir led the band on vocals with a youthful energy as Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann kept the song’s complex rhythm squarely in the pocket.
Dead & Co fans have wishfully waited for the unveiling of “The Eleven” for nearly three years, crossing their fingers at the end of each “St. Stephen” in hopes that this may finally be the night. With the triumphant Dead & Company “The Eleven” debut falling after an incredible “St. Stephen” jam on the 11th show of their summer tour, the moment had never been more right to unleash it. Here’s to hoping the song sticks around now that it’s finally arrived. Watch fan-shot footage of “William Tell” > “The Eleven” below:
Dead & Company – “William Tell Bridge” > “The Eleven”
[Video: Sean Roche]
Mickey and Billy took their nightly voyage to the cosmos next, crafting a frantic tribal groove as a counterpoint to the more melodic segment from Friday night. “Eyes of the World” settled in out of “Space” for a late-set dance party accented by glowing solos from Chimenti and Mayer. After coming to a full stop, the band moved into their customary fourth-quarter ballad—a stirring “Stella Blue”—before landing in a “Sunshine Daydream” coda in the closing slot, completing the “Sugar Magnolia” that started the show. Finally, the band returned to the stage for a “One More Saturday Night” encore before taking their well-earned Big Apple bows.
Dead & Company’s 2018 summer tour continues on Tuesday, June 19th at Darien Lake Amphitheater in Darien Center, NY. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here. Last night’s full performance is available to stream now via nugs.net.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Citi Field | New York, NY | 6/16/18
Set One: Sugar Magnolia, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > Peggy-O > Bertha, Comes A Time, Jack-A-Roe, Bird Song > New Speedway Boogie > Bird Song
Set Two: Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge* > The Eleven* > Drums/Space > Eyes of the World, Stella Blue, Sunshine Daydream
Encore: One More Saturday Night
*Dead & Company debut