Beloved ensemble Dead & Company hit the main stage at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival last night, bringing Grateful Dead classics to close out the 15th annual event. Dead & Company is the fusion of Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, with bassist Oteil Burbridge, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and guitarist John Mayer. After heating things up with their tour opener last Friday, June 10th in Charlotte, NC, Dead & Company held nothing back for a great performance at Bonnaroo.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the set was the introduction of Donna Jean Godchaux, an Alabama native who made her Dead & Company debut on the Bonnaroo stage. Godchaux has appeared with Ratdog and Dark Star Orchestra in the years following Jerry Garcia’s death, including a 2009 performance with Bob Weir, Keller Williams and more at Gathering of the Vibes. Godchaux’s debut with Dead & Company certainly begs the question: will she appear with them going forward? Only time will tell.
The band opened with “Truckin'” and “Smokestack Lightning” before calling on Godchaux to provide some vocal support on the classic “Bertha.” The singer stayed on during “Playin’ In The Band,” providing her triumphant howling vocals to bring the instrumental section to a climactic peak. The band then broke into “Bird Song,” before grooving into “Tennessee Jed,” “Shakedown Street,” and “Passenger,” and bringing things back to close out “Bird Song.” Godchaux made her return from “Shakedown Street” on, but let the band finish off the set with a bouncy “Casey Jones.”
Second set brought more of the Grateful jams to Bonnaroo, opening things up with a “Help On The Way > Slipknot!” combination that surprisingly segued into another classic Dead pairing, “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire On The Mountain.” The latter of the two songs saw Godchaux return to the stage, singing vocals behind Weir. From there, Dead & Company segued into the “Terrapin Station” suite, with Mayer taking the “Lady In A Fan” vocals before Weir brought it home with support from Godchaux and Burbridge.
The set continued with a mind-blowing “Drums/Space” section, which gave rise to a jammed out “The Other One.” After taking a moment to slow things down with “Wharf Rat,” Dead & Company closed out the set by putting an end to the “Help/Slip” suite, bringing it home for “Franklin’s Tower.” Godchaux returned to the stage for “Franklin’s,” and remained with the band for the encore performance of “Touch Of Grey.” Though the song was written a few years after she left the band, Godchaux’s presence certainly added some serious nostalgia to the Grateful Dead experience at Bonnaroo.
Watch the full show in the two videos streaming below.
Dead & Company’s tour continues on Thursday, June 16th at the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, OH. Check out last night’s setlist in full, courtesy of Erin Lippert/FOJC.
Setlist: Dead & Company at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN – 6/12/16
Set One: Truckin’ bw (jm jc) > Smokestack Lightning bw > Bertha jm (dg ob )*, Playing’ In The Band bw (dg) > Bird Song jm > Tennessee Jed bw (jm ob ) Shakedown Street bw jm (jc ob dg ), Passenger bw dg > Bird Song (all), Casey Jones jm
Set Two: Help On The Way jm > Slipknot! > Scarlet Begonias bw > Fire On The Mountain bw (dg ob)*, Lady With A Fan jm (bw) > Terrapin Station bw (dg ob) > Drums / Space > The Other One bw >Wharf Rat bw (jm ob jc) >Franklin’s Tower bw jm (dg jc) *
Encore : Touch of Grey bw jm (dg)
*Donna Jean Godchaux joins stage