Dead & Company headed up to Massachusetts on Thursday for the band’s first of two nights at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield.

The band hit the stage rested and ready to explore after a few days’ rest following Saturday’s performance in Hershey, PA. Some traces of “The Wheel” could be detected as Bob WeirBill KreutzmannMickey HartJohn MayerOteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti eased into the opening number, but the tune-up eventually diverted into a show-opening “Playing In The Band”.

Dead & Company – “Playing In The Band” [Pro-Shot] – 9/2/21

Making their improvisational intentions known early, the band glided through multiple distinct jam sections on the opener before making good on the prior teases of “The Wheel” with a full rendition of the song. This one, too, got the jam treatment as the band played with jazzy space and blues riffs from Mayer and Chimenti before landing in a reggae-tinged reprise of the chorus.

Dead & Company – “The Wheel” – 9/2/21

[Videos: Jamey Klein]

Already more than thirty minutes into the first set, the band picked up the pace for a New Orleans favorite, “Iko Iko”. Perhaps a nod to the many people in the Big Easy and beyond currently afflicted by Ida and her fallout, this tour debut saw Weir lean into his vocal delivery over pretty backing harmonies and a shuffling groove from the rhythm section.

Dead & Company – “Iko Iko” (Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters) – 9/2/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Next, Mayer—rocking a cardigan, over his “Sob Rock University” t-shirt along with his Silver Sky PRS and silver, over-ear monitors—stepped to the forefront for another tour debut, Ellmore James classic “It Hurts Me Too”, a common cover for the Grateful Dead during the Pigpen era. After Mayer flexed his renowned blues chops on both the guitar and the microphone—with a satisfying assist from Chimenti on the organ—Weir took the lead on a flowing “Ramble On Rose”.

Dead & Company – “It Hurts Me Too” (Ellmore James) – 9/2/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Following a brief jolt of energy by way of a Mayer-sung “Brown-Eyed Women”, the band closed out its first set in Mansfield with a far-reaching “Let It Grow” that made liberal use of dynamics and rhythmic fluctuation over the course of its 16-minute runtime.

Dead & Company – “Deal” [Pro-Shot] – 9/2/21

The band returned after dark for the second set and dove into a spirited, Mayer-fronted “Deal” as Grateful Dead/casino imagery cycled through the stage’s screens like slot machines and roulette wheels. After building this “Deal” to a big peak, Mayer and Weir locked eyes and together executed a segue into “Dark Star” to the audible delight of the crowd.

Throughout the show, the band had been showcasing its mission to explore the jazzy depths of the songs being played, and this “Dark Star” was the culmination of that approach. With each member peppering in whisps of spacey melodies and ambiance, the band proceeded to take this jam out into deep space. By the ten-minute mark, the music had shifted from light and airy to frenzied and frantic, Oteil expertly pushing the outfit deeper and deeper. By the time the first verse of the tune finally arrived, the jam had already eclipsed the first set’s “Let It Grow” as the lengthiest improvisation of the night.

Departing the “Dark Star” framework after one verse (expect them to return to the cosmos to finish the missing portion on Friday), the band moved into “El Paso” and, in turn, a patient and creative “Uncle John’s Band”.

Dead & Company – “El Paso” – 9/2/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Hart and Kreutzmann got their turn in the spotlight next for Drums/Space before a brief, chugging “Casey Jones” bridged the gap to a gorgeous, Weir-sung “Stella Blue”. An emphatic, sing-along “Sugar Magnolia” finally capped the jam-heavy performance to a close before a sentimental “Ripple” encore brought Dead & Company’s first night in Mansfield to a close.

Dead & Company – “Casey Jones” – 9/2/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

Dead & Company – “Ripple” – 9/2/21

[Videos: Jamey Klein]

Dead & Company returns to the Xfinity Center on Wednesday night for round two. For a full list of upcoming Dead & Company 2021 tour dates, head here.

Check out a gallery of photos from the show below courtesy of photographer Charlie Jenkins.

Setlist: Dead & Company | Xfinity Center | Mansfield, MA | 9/2/21

Set One: Playing In The Band* > The Wheel > Iko Iko, It Hurts Me Too, Ramble On Rose, Brown-Eyed Women > Let It Grow

Set Two: Deal > Dark Star^ > El Paso > Uncle John’s Band > Drums > Space > Casey Jones > Stella Blue > Sugar Magnolia

Encore: Ripple

*Preceded by “The Wheel” tease

^Verse 1 only