Dead & Company threw it back to the days of yore last night, recalling the bygone era when the Grateful Dead were merely the musical figureheads of a countercultural movement. The heart of that movement lay in San Francisco, CA, and one man, promoter Bill Graham, was destined to see this music spread nationwide. Graham started booking shows at the Fillmore towards the end of 1965, and The Dead would perform at the 1,150-capacity venue a total of 51 times between 1965-1969.
The venue famously inspired spin-off locations, Fillmore West and Fillmore East, but neither of them had the longevity as the classic Fillmore venue. The location has stood for over 100 years, and was even voted by Consequence of Sound as the #1 venue in the country. With all of that history in mind, the Grateful ensemble known as Dead & Company took the stage at the Fillmore, poised to perform some of their best music to the intimate crowd for the free show.
The set started off with a powerful note, as the band launched into an extended version of “St. Stephen.” John Mayer was really letting loose on the guitar, and he kept up the fireworks during the Bob Weir-led “Hell In A Bucket.” From there, Mayer had a chance to shine with the lead on “Cold Rain & Snow.” The sing-along kept the crowd on their toes, but the set continued with a not-so-surprise visit from Sammy Hagar. Hagar had posted about the invitation to guest earlier in the day, and, true to his word, he came out and led a fun – albeit sloppy – rendition of “Loose Lucy.”
The band continued their set by working in Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately,”, with some excellent organ work from Jeff Chimenti accompanying Weir’s vocals. Possibly played in honor of Dylan’s birthday (May 24th), the cool down moment brought the group into another Mayer led classic GD tune, “Brown Eyed Women.” The uplifting number served as the set closer, as the band took a short break and refueled for round two.
Watch the first set below, courtesy of Moonalice’s live feed:
After a quick respite, the band got the second set rocking with a fun “Big Railroad Blues,” keeping things punchy before steadily segueing into “Sugaree.” The version was slightly slower than normal, allowing for some longing vocals from Weir and guitar tones from Mayer. The version had a bluesy feel throughout, shuffling on the song’s familiar rhythm and letting Mayer really shine in his familiar blues rock roots.
Next up was “Estimated Prophet,” a majestic soaring version with Mayer keeping up his great guitarwork. His tone was reminiscent of Jerry Garcia’s as he led the jam, with drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart keeping up the tricky 7/4 meter. The song’s jam stayed very melodic throughout, with Mayer riffing while the band members explored new space. The group ultimately landed on the riff of “Dark Star,” playing the song out for an impressive jam that circled in space before landing on “The Other One.” The pairing of these two psychedelic tracks from the band’s heyday in San Francisco certainly were appreciated at The Fillmore, whether that was a conscious or subconscious decision.
The jam session winded down with “Days Between,” as the contemplative song filled the set with its slowed down tempo. The brief interlude concluded with “China Cat Sunflower,” and the upbeat tune segued into the classic “I Know You Rider.” A fiery version of “Rider” closed out the show, and the band encored with their famed American Beauty song, “Brokedown Palace.” What a performance!
You can watch the full second set here:
The band is set to return to the stage on June 10th for their summer tour, so don’t miss out! Check out last night’s setlist below.
Setlist: Dead & Company at The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA – 5/24/16
Set One: St. Stephen, Hell In A Bucket, Cold Rain and Snow, Loose Lucy*, Queen Jane Approximately, Brown Eyed Women
Set Two: Big Railroad Blues, Sugaree, Estimated Prophet > Dark Star > The Other One, Days Between > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
Encore: Brokedown Palace
* = w/ Sammy Hagar
[Cover photo by mattbusch28/Instagram]