Dead & Company delivered yet another packed setlist with a notable sit-in for a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden on Friday night for the second of two shows at the New York City venue to kick off their Fall Fun Run Tour.
The band started Friday’s performance with “Cold Rain and Snow,” making it immediately clear that they had warmed up extensively. Lead guitarist John Mayer busted out blazing lines right from the start and kept the energy riding high throughout the entire show. A crawling “Hell In a Bucket” followed, too slow for dancing until Mayer began shredding blues riffs to compensate. It worked; this kick really got rhythm guitarist Bob Weir going, and he ended the song screaming and stomping with the beat.
Next up was a tender “Row Jimmy” which bounced slowly but deliberately along and provided a nice singalong opportunity for the crowd. After a hard stop, the band meandered into “Ramble On Rose,” which culminated in a rollicking interplay between Mayer and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and featured some really driving bass lines from Oteil Burbridge.
The boys busted out “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” next, which featured an especially energetic outro that gave Mayer some space to open up his tone while drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart were in tandem to create shining percussive moments. A thumping “Mr. Charlie” suddenly materialized, giving Mayer even more of his favored blues style to bite into. This trend would continue all night long and make this show one of his most comfortable.
Special guest Maggie Rogers joined the band onstage for a rendition of “Friend of the Devil”, and any doubters of the pop singer were quickly silenced by her powerful, clear voice and tasteful vocal riffs. Her simple, beautifully haunting harmonies alongside Mayer during Chimenti’s piano solo were a sure highlight of the first set. As Rogers left the stage to booming applause, the first little flutters of “Bird Song” began to emerge. A far-out, spacey jam led into a funky “Loose Lucy” tease before disintegrating into a free jazz-like sonic concoction. The band pulled out of this nicely to hit a final chorus/verse combo to end a stellar first set.
Watch Rogers join the band for the first set performance of “Friend of the Devil” below.
Dead & Company w/ Maggie Rogers – “Friend of the Devil” – 11/1/19
[Video: Sean Roche]
Dead & Company started their second set with a minor-key jam that abruptly popped into “Scarlet Begonias”, which really had the floor jumping and the balconies swaying with the simultaneous dancing of over 20,000 people. A groovy transition led the band into more familiar territory, but instead of building the song gradually as usual, a smooth and coordinated start brought them into the Burbridge-sung “Fire On the Mountain”. Dissonant instrumental showboating by Mayer and Chimenti took center stage, and together the two assisted Burbridge in driving the 1978 Shakedown Street tune home.
A very sloppy transition into “He’s Gone” marred the start of the song but was quickly forgotten through the quality of the vocals from Weir and Mayer, as well as the energy and taste the lead guitarist brought to the treatment of the solo. A gritty transition into a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’” brought the band back into solid blues territory before they briefly reprised “He’s Gone”.
Quick note for guitarists: at this point Mayer was suddenly handed a guitar that was apparently brand new to Dead & Company, a Travis Bean aluminum-neck electric that marks one of the only non-PRS electric guitars he’s played with the band.
The pop of “China Cat Sunflower” revealed the musical roadmap a bit, and a way-too-early vocal entry by Weir was redeemed by a syncopated guitar solo from Mayer and some novel sounding chord progressions during the instrumental break. The inevitable follow-up of “I Know You Rider” brought the show right into a particularly crazy “Drums” instrumental. The rest of the band eventually filtered back onstage for “Space”, with Mayer once again carrying his usual PRS Super Eagle guitar.
From the depths of deep space emerged “Althea”, which took the night’s “Filthiest Guitar Solo” award for two virtuosic, absolutely frenetic solos that represented the peak of the second set. Unfortunately, “The Other One” slated to be played next was skipped, likely to make the 11 p.m. curfew, and the band proceeded directly into an ethereal “Morning Dew”. The last few measures of this final song brought the second set to a thunderous close.
The band returned to the stage along with Rogers for an encore performance of The Band‘s “The Weight”, featuring verses from Weir, Rogers, Mayer, and Chimenti! Rogers took the opportunity to show off her range and vocal control and was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience, while Weir’s often strange falsetto verse actually stayed on pitch this time around. Finally, a beautiful and somber “Brokedown Palace” capped another wonderful night at The Garden.
Watch the band’s encore cover of “The Weight” with more help from Rogers below.
Dead & Company w/ Maggie Rogers – “The Weight” – 11/1/19
[Video: Sean Roche]
Dead & Company’s fall tour picks up again early next week with a pair of shows at Uniondale, NY’s NYCB Live (formerly Nassau Coliseum) on November 4th-5th. Head to the band’s website for tickets and tour info.
Scroll down for a gallery from Friday’s performance, courtesy of photographer Matthew Rea.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 11/1/19
Set One: Cold Rain & Snow, Hell in a Bucket, Row Jimmy, Ramble On Rose, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Mr. Charlie, Friend of the Devil*, Bird Song
Set Two: Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, He’s Gone > Smokestack Lightnin’ (Howlin’ Wolf cover) > He’s Gone, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (Traditional cover) > Drums > Space > Althea, Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson cover)
Encore: The Weight* (The Band cover), Brokedown Palace
* w/ Maggie Rogers