The resurrected incarnation of jam band Dead & Company resumed their summer tour at Coastal Federal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, NC last night. The all-star lineup features three former members of the Grateful Dead with Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart on percussive duties, and Bob Weir taking his natural role as rhythm guitarist. Oteil Burbridge (from Allman Brothers Band notoriety as well as Aquarium Rescue Unit) joined on bass guitar, Jeff Chimenti (from Furthur, Ratdog, and most recently the Golden Gate Wingmen) on keyboards, and solo bluesman John Mayer taking the lead guitar and role as veritable front man.
The band kicked the first set off after some characteristic casual fiddling with a slow tempo “Cold Rain and Snow” off their self-titled debut album, with John Mayer on lead vocals and vocal assistance from Chimenti and Burbridge. Mayer, sporting a lopsided bandana and sunglasses, ripped into the first solo of the night while Chimenti and Weir chased him musically into the depths of the abyss. Bob Weir, wearing a cut off athletic t-shirt, introduced “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, as the first of three tour debuts in a row, with a charisma that foreshadowed his eternal vitality.
“Cold Rain And Snow” – Dead & Company – 6/9/2018
Amidst crowd cheers for Weir, Bobby traded his electric for an acoustic guitar and resumed vocal duties for the sentimental ode “Peggy-O.” Bobby took full advantage of the acoustic tone while Chimenti supplemented the sound with pristine piano playing. Weir flourished a beautiful solo and closed out the traditional song’s emotional lyrics in epic fashion. Weir continued to dominate the set list with the vocals on his own tune “Mexicali Blues”. Bobby’s voice and lyrical command were sharp, and during this jam, the band really came together. Chimenti transported the audience down to the desert cantinas with his dazzling keyboard playing. Burbridge hammered the offbeat rhythms with a swagger and a grin.
“Tennessee Jed” gave Bobby the opportunity to show off the grittiness in his voice that only comes from his rugged years of life as a rock and roll star. Mayer and Burbridge both assisted vocally. Mickey Hart’s echoing booms punctuated the end of each measure.
After a brief pause, Hart’s haunted sounds reverberated bizarrely as the band commenced the beginning of an incredible sandwich to end the first set. The notes of “Bird Song” tinkled mystifyingly and developed organically, leaving the audience in a dumbfounded, psychedelic trance. Over four minutes of collaborative musical supremacy passed before Bobby stepped to the microphone and maintained his powerful vocal reign.
Mayer, Burbridge, Chimenti, Kreutzmann all played tightly together, well practiced in their third year touring. With Mayer, Chimenti, and Burbridge, all lending vocal support, a moment stood out when Mayer stepped off the microphone to allow a shrugging Bobby to “Fly through the night!” The unfinished song trailed off as the jaunty introductory notes of “Bertha” resonated through the air. The smooth transition picked up the tempo and intensity as Mayer took vocal lead with Burbridge, Weir, and Chimenti supporting. Oteil sustained a thundering groove with the dual percussionists throughout the jam until the band softly returned to “Bird Song” to complete the sandwich and end the first set.
After a set break allowed both the audience and band to relieve themselves and return refreshed, the sextet dove into the tour’s first version of politically charged “Throwin’ Stones” with Bobby at the helm. The crowd reciprocated the musicians’ energy with their choral participation. Next, Mayer sung lead for a fervent version of “Deal.” However, it was Oteil and Chimenti who stood out most prominently with their pulsating rhythms and blazing organ riffs. The intensity climaxed at the conclusion with an eruption of energy led by Mayer’s sexy and eccentric lyrical improvisations and spirited dance moves.
“Throwin’ Stones” – Dead & Company – 6/9/2018
A smooth segue led the music right into the distinguished introduction of “Estimated Prophet” with Bobby regaining vocal duties. Weir’s powerful voice showed no sign of abating as he commanded the heavy jam-filled progressions of this groovy tune with veteran authority. “Playin’ in the Band” followed with a fast-tempo and swinging beat. Once again, Bobby hit all the right notes vocally and the rest of the band maintained their flawless standards of excellence.
As is tradition at a Grateful Dead show, the percussionists took center stage for a mighty assault on their kits for a prolonged “Drums / Space.” The rest of the musicians left the stage while Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart underwent a de-evolution metamorphosis which returned the music to their primal roots at Ken Kesey’s acid tests. Mickey Hart went full transform into the mad scientist alter ego for an interstellar trip into other dimensions with an especially far-out “Space.”
The band returned to the stage to extend “Space” a little further (Oteil donned glasses in his Mickey impersonation of the Mad Scientist) before executing a suave and mellow rendition of “The Wheel” with everybody adding to the song’s lyrical obligations. This transitioned into the band’s continuation of “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” led by John Mayer on vocals. The music sizzled with a lightning fast tempo and several keyboard flourishes. They returned to “The Wheel” for one more echoing refrain before performing a magnificent and sweet cover of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” for the first time of the tour. Bob Weir shined vocally with Mayer supplementing with backup vocals.
To finish an inspirational second set, the band appropriately whooped up a fiery rendition of “One More Saturday Night”, also the first of the tour, with Weir continuing to astound vocally and charismatically with his youthful energy. Chimenti dished out a furious flurry of notes as the band hammers out the closing lines on repeat with increasing intensity. The audience was dancing to the echoes and clamoring for more as the band ended the second set.
To finish the night of music with heart-wrenching emotion, Bob Weir and John Mayer shared vocal responsibilities on “Ripple.” Bobby brought the acoustic guitar back out for the crowd favorite encore and the show ended with the audience swaying hand in hand. It was an ideal ending to a perfect night of music, which was exemplified by Bobby’s vocal strength and total band cohesion.
Dead & Company’s tour continues at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY tomorrow on June 11th.
Setlist: Dead & Company | Coastal Federal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek | Raleigh, NC | 6/9/18
I: Cold Rain And Snow, Greatest Story Ever Told, Peggy-O, Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Bird Song > Bertha > Bird Song
II: Throwing Stones > Deal > Estimated Prophet > Playing In The Band > Drums/Space > The Wheel > Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes (Jam) > The Wheel > Dear Prudence > One More Saturday Night