Dead & Company returned to Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Wednesday, once again without drummer Bill Kreutzmann, to close out a two-night run. The founding drummer for the Grateful Dead was absent from Tuesday’s show due to a non-Covid illness. In his place, drummer Jay Lane played the drums alongside Mickey Hart, who stuck around for the whole show following an early departure on Tuesday.

The ensemble of Bob WeirJohn MayerJeff ChimentiOteil Burbridge, Mickey Hart, and Jay Lane took the stage without introduction, trusting everyone was aware of Bill’s absence. Instead, John Mayer revved up the opening chords to “Bertha” as he captained the band through this one with silky leads. The revised rhythmic duo of Hart and Lane kept a steady, if controlled, presence as Dead & Co dropped hard into “Good Lovin” to keep the party rolling.

Dead & Company — “Bertha” — 10/20/21

Slithering through the song’s familiar formation each member added a bit of flair, notably Jeff Chimenti—who celebrates his 53rd birthday today—on the B3 organ. The floor eventually ceded to JonBo, delivering his own divine crawl up and down the neck of the guitar. The band even got the crowd in on the fun by dropping out the beat for a quick a capella roar of “Good Lovin!”

A serene telling of “The Wheel” came next, as John and Jeff activated their groupmind for the most significant instance of the evening thus far, the rest of the rhythm section filling in behind to build up a mighty beat. Between the instrumental interplay and the vocal harmonizations, Dead & Co felt the first real click of the evening in “The Wheel”, lineup be damned.

Riding that synergy, Bob Weir sat everyone down for storytime with “Black-Throated Wind”. Though it may have felt detrimental to the energy of the first set, it was merely an exercise in the band’s ability to throttle the energy at any moment, riding the folksy number to the crest of a wave. A quick-hit, bluesy “Mr. Charlie” hit the reset button before the band dug into “Hell in a Bucket”.

Mayer was given the green light to let loose on the jam, as his fiery frenetic leads stole the show. Though the following “Bird Song” may have seemed like yet another downswing in energy, it was just another false alarm as Dead & Co settled into the groove to take this one well past the 20-minute mark. Coming together for some good ole rock n’ roll-style jams, the band quickly found themselves in the midst of a swampy funk as Chimenti took over the clavinet before a return to the verse brought the jam and set one to a close.

Back for more, Dead & Company opted for the reliable set opener of “Playing in the Band” to kick off the final frame at Red Rocks. Despite the chilly mountain temperatures, the band caught fire early on, holding onto no anchor as it stepped out into the ether. Even the rhythm section, which to this point was a bit calculated if not rigid, began to experiment in form as Mayer ventured off in his own world, exploring every secret his PRS holds.

Dead & Company — “Playing in the Band” — 10/20/21

Eventually emerging on the other side of the jazz-infused improvisation—without finishing the second verse—Dead & Company arrived at “He’s Gone”. While the sorrowful reflection is wholeheartedly felt at every outing, it also represents one of the group’s best-utilized improvisational vehicles. The wandering root notes from Mayer kept the whole group in lock-step as they trudged along the bittersweet funeral procession.

The descending melody of “Uncle John’s Band” came to light following the “He’s Gone” jam, with the joyful sing-along serving as a cosmic foil to the eulogy that preceded it. Mayer’s extended exploration of the upper neck of his guitar glided along the bobbing bass notes emanating from Oteil as the blissful jam plodded along.

Dead & Company — “He’s Gone” — 10/20/21

[Video: rober fontneau]

Not to be outdone, the bar of euphoria was raised as the opening chords to “Terrapin Station” rang out across Red Rocks. Both Weir and Lane no doubt felt some deja vu as they stood in the same spots just over four months ago when they debuted the full “Terrapin Station” suite with Wolf Bros, splitting the movement up between a two-night run. Oh, the serendipities of life.

Next came another highly anticipated “Drums” segment as Mickey and Lane got a bit more adventurous as compared to the traditional rhythmic breakdown of night one. The two mounted a more progressive segment that flirted with electronic dance elements while staying true to jungle rhythms before Mickey gave The Beam its due attention.

Following an exceedingly ambient “Space”, Weir picked right back up with Bob Dylan‘s “All Along The Watchtower”, which led into the second verse of “Playing in the Band”. The post-“Space” ballad slot went to “Standing on the Moon”, as the full moon shone brightly over Morrison.

Dead & Company – “Standing On The Moon” – 10/20/21

[Video: Matt Frazier]

In an unexpected and cyclical move, Dead & Company decided to repeat a song from the first night, closing the second set with “Not Fade Away”. The Buddy Holly cover previously opened night one’s show, as substitute drummer Jay Lane proudly announced himself with the opening rhythm. As the song closed out night two—once again with Jay behind the sticks—the song carried another message. Just like when it closed night three of Fare Thee Well at Soldier Field in 2015, the message here was that no matter the players, no matter the place, you know our love will not fade away.

Sensing the overwhelming sentimentality, Dead & Company opted for the sing-along to end all sing-alongs, “Ripple”, to close out the evening, as well as the run, at Red Rocks. Dead & Company is off to Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in nearby Englewood, CO for a sold-out, two-night run on Friday and Saturday, hopefully with Bill Kreutzmann back in his rightful seat. For a full list of tour dates, visit the band’s website.

Below, you can check out a full gallery of photos from the performance courtesy of photographer Andrew Rios.

Setlist: Dead & Company | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 10/20/21

Set One: Bertha > Good Lovin, The Wheel > Black-Throated Wind, Mr. Charlie, Hell in a Bucket, Bird Song

Set Two: Playing in the Band > He’s Gone > Uncle John’s Band > Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > All Along the Watchtower > Playin’ Reprise > Standing on the Moon, Not Fade Away

Encore: Ripple


Jay Lane replaced Bill Kreutzmann, who was out due to medical issues