Dead & Company, the Grateful Dead offshoot consisting of rhythm guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, bassist/vocalist Oteil Burbridge and lead guitarist/vocalist John Mayer, got right into the second show of their signature Mexican getaway festival, Playing In The Sand, with a burst of energy and an uncharacteristic opening “Scarlet Begonias” (the fourth ever per Phantasy Tour). Beyond the placement in the set, the night was long on crowd-pleasing jams and exploratory cosmic vibes and yet short on surprises.

Dead & Company – “Scarlet Begonias” > “Bertha” [Pro-Shot] – 1/16/23

While Dead & Company may lack a bag of flashy tricks, splashy guests, and the like, that is exactly the point of this iteration of post-Dead projects, after all. If you can say one thing about the Grateful Dead’s catalog, it’s that the material has been road tested and is proven to work in the format chosen. The musical positions needed to pull off a performance of the material have been established and proven to stand the test of time. Bob Weir, Mayer, and the boys in the band have this down to a very sweet science and that’s what the sold-out event’s patrons paid to see.

One of the main storylines from this year’s Playing In The Sand was John Mayer’s recent acquisition of a near-perfect recreation of Jerry Garcia‘s legendary “Wolf” guitar, as authentic a recreation as is humanly possible. Apparently, it hasn’t left his hot hands since. All night long Mayer was summoning the sweetest of sounds from this spot-on recreation eerily reminiscent of that famous Garcia-commissioned instrument. The newest axe in Mayer’s collection brought life to the night’s second tune, “Bertha”, on into “Good Lovin'” and the stuttering start rhythms of “Mr.Charlie”.

Weir took us on a meandering walk through “Black Throated Wind” before leading the band and the crowd through a sing-a-long “Let The Good Times Roll” that got the crowd in the palm of his hand, just in time to launch into an always welcome “Dark Star”. After delivering an aching first few minutes of that classic tune it fell upon Oteil Burbridge to launch into the ionic bass line of “Fire On The Mountain” to shake the crowd from the hypnotic trance his band had woven. Utilizing the beloved crescendo of “Fire” as their lead into set break, Dead & Company gave the crowd much-needed time to re-adjust their melted faces.

Returning to the stage, Dead & Company eschewed expectations for any continuation of “Dark Star” as they launched into “Playing In The Band”, which also dissolved unfinished, this time into “Brown Eyed Women”. Mercifully for a slightly addled crowd, this tune was given the chance to reach a sonic climax.

Dead & Company – “Playing In The Band” [Pro-Shot] – 1/16/23

“Dark Star ” resurfaced, serving as a jam vehicle into a protracted and surreal heart of the second set. “Lady With A Fan” flowed into the self-exploring, mind-widening “Terrapin Station” before drummer Ben Atkind from Playing In The Sand special guest Goose joined Hart and Kreutzmann for the palate cleansing percussive show marker “Drums”. And lo, as since time immemorial, “Drums’ gave way to “Space” as Dead & Company ended their exploration of the infinite with the third and final “lady” of the night, “Althea”.

From here it was just a matter of resorting to the collective mental states of the fans in attendance with a passionate pairing of Bob Dylan by way of Jimi Hendrix cover of “All Along The Watchtower” and set-closing “Morning Dew”. Keeping things somewhat lighter for their encore, Dead & Company got things started with a jovial trip to see “Uncle John’s Band” before finishing the last of the open sandwiches with a decidedly welcome outro of “Playing In The Band”.

All in all eager Dead aficionados willing to dig deep into their pockets and livestreamers around the world on nugs.Net got just what they wanted: a guided tour of one of modern music’s most beloved songbooks by players and creators showing nearly unequaled skill and knowledge of the same. The fact that this musical spectacle happened next to a picture-perfect oceanfront on a stage lit by a masterful set of engineers and light designers with crystal clear music at any volume certainly showed no expense was spared on the production as well.

What more could anyone want…other than another, final evening yet to come?

For a complete list of upcoming Dead & Company The Final Tour 2023 dates, head here. Revisit Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of Playing In The Sand 2023: Night 1 | Night 2 (Goose) | Night 3 | Night 4

Dead & Company – Playing In The Sand – Moon Palace Cancún – Quintana Roo, Mexico – 1/16/23

[Audio: Eric Lugassy]

Setlist: Dead & Company | Playing In The Sand | Moon Palace Cancún | Quintana Roo, Mexico | 1/16/23

Set One: Scarlet Begonias > Bertha > Good Lovin’, Mr. Charlie, Black Throated Wind, Let The Good Times Roll, Dark Star [1] > Fire On The Mountain

Set Two: Playing In The Band > Brown Eyed Women, Dark Star [2] > Lady With A Fan > Terrapin  Station > Drums [3] > Space > Althea, All Along The Watchtower > Morning Dew

Encore: Uncle John’s Band > Playing In The Band

[1] First verse only

[2] Second verse

[3] w/ Ben Atkind