After a winning night one at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Dead & Company took the stage looking to continue their incredible run of stellar performances in one of Major League Baseball’s most hallowed ballparks. With multiple, legendary nights in the city over the years, starting with the Grateful Dead, up on through the 2015’s Fare Thee Well run, on through just the night before, the smart money would be on the band bringing it home safely. Judging from the monstrous cheers the show opener, a bouncy “Truckin’” received, their chances were good.

A long, bluesy transition gave guitarist John Mayer a couple extra minutes to warm his soul up before he went pouring it into a sparse, emotive take on Howling’ Wolf’s blues standard “Smokestack Lightning”. After nailing that warm up, Mayer was ready for one of the Dead’s bluesiest numbers, “Althea” and he did not disappoint. With ample bottleneck backup from fellow guitarist Bob Weir, Mayer demonstrated why he is such a perfect fit for this current incarnation of the band. It’s almost as if Mayer’s sonic toolkit was perfectly built for the blues and psychedelia needed to play his position as well as anyone besides the late Jerry Garcia possibly could.

Dead & Company – “Truckin'”, “Smokestack Lightning” (Howlin’ Wolf) [Pro-Shot] – 6/10/23

Weir’s aging voice might make some fans wince from time to time but it lends an authenticity to tunes like “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” that buffers the tunes’ bonafides. The sweet barrelhouse piano boogie laid down by keyboardist Jeff Chimenti also didn’t hurt as a supplement. Yet more rock-solid blues play from Mayer saw him and Chimenti once again battling for MVP of the weekend, though Mayer was starting to pull away.

Next up was one of the best-received moments of the entire two-night stand as bassist Oteil Burbridge finally got his number called. Oteil took the spotlight on vocals on “High Time” to go along with his usual, thunderous basslines. It’s a difficult lineup to get microphone time in, so when Burbridge does manage to get up there, the crowd favorite does what he did Saturday night…he knocks it right out of the park.

After “High Time” it was time for one of the high points of the first set, an around-the-order assault on the Bob Dylan-penned, Jimi Hendrix-perfected “All Along The Watchtower”. Having scored so many runs with the fans to this point, the feel-good twofer sing-along of “Bertha” and The Rascals‘ infectious earworm classic “Good Lovin’” were wonderful choices to end an already excellent opening set. It’s an amazing sight to see…an entire stadium on its feet, shaking their respective money makers. Granted, it’s one that Dead & Company are used to at this point.

The starting notes of the second set opener “Help On The Way” got an already enthusiastic fan base completely back into the show as they cheered with unbridled gusto. As time elapsed throughout the first set and intermission, the sun had descended on Chicago and with it so did “Help” into an equally convoluted and twisty “Slipknot!”.

With darkness fallen the massive stage lights worked their magic, painting the vast cavern of Wrigley into an enchanted land of light beams and impossibly colored patterns. Each member of the band was clearly lit for those lucky enough to be close enough to see them in this commodious ballpark, though the have-nots in the bleachers were treated to one of the best light shows in the business.

Speaking of things inevitable as the setting sun, “Slipknot!” graciously slipped into a true fan favorite, “Franklin’s Tower”. Mayer again showed his chops on the song with lead guitar and vocal duty, as assisted by the entire crowd in a full-throated chorus before the first complete stop of the second stanza. A few furtive fills, licks, and adjustments were heard before “St. Stephen” popped off the band’s collective bat with a reception not unlike home team faithful hearing the crack of a bat signaling a late-inning, game-winning hit.

Dead & Company – “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” [Pro-Shot] – 6/10/23

“St. Stephen” gave way to the traditional, explorative section of the show known to all as ”Drums” >” Space”. In contrast to the previous evening’s incredible far-ranging journey, Saturday’s trip seemed to stick a little closer to our own star cluster. Still, it did its job and brought the audience together on a collective audio journey while serving as a clear line of musical demarcation. The clock was winding down and it was time to reset, get into gear, and make the most out of every moment left.

Exiting hyperspace into “Uncle John’s Band” saw huge stretches of melted faces reform into expressions of joy as recognition danced across the stadium like wildfire. “Cumberland Blues” provided the freshly refocused fans a true rocker to hone in on before night one’s previously unfinished “The Other One” got its well-deserved completion.

Sadly, all good things, including second sets at Dead & Co shows, must come to an end and the down-tempo “Morning Dew” was a welcome lowering of the landing gear for many a fan. Not to say that Mayer, along with the always-on-the-beat drummer Jay Lane and company, weren’t gonna go into the locker room without one last epic crescendo.

It’s not like there was any chance Dead & Company weren’t coming back out for an extra inning or two but that didn’t stop the packed stadium from showing their appreciation for such a splendid showing. Transfixing the cheering faithful into a tranquil mood with an aching “Brokedown Palace”. Dead & Co sneakily pulled the last two aces they had up their collective sleeves, a last stanza of Friday’s “Playing In The Band” and the raw jubilance of “One More Saturday Night”.

It’s sad to see any amazing team break up. Time has done it to the best of them, and sadly, by the end of the year Dead & Company will join the ranks of the dear departed. Things like team dynasties and stellar bands aren’t built in a day and they certainly aren’t made to last forever. Players age out, members get lost to the sands of time, and the cycle of life just keeps spinning. When you find something you love, like the musicianship of Dead & Company, treasure it in the moment. Do it right and you’ll find a peace within you that lasts throughout the ages.

Dead & Company’s The Final Tour continues on Tuesday in Cincinnati, OH. For tickets and a complete list of tour dates visit the band’s website.

Dead & Company – “Althea” – 6/10/23

[Video: Sojahsey1]

Dead & Company – “All Along The Watchtower” (Bob Dylan) – 6/10/23

[Video: Sojahsey1]

Dead & Company – “Morning Dew” (Bonnie Dobson) – 6/10/23

[Video: Barbara Grant]


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Setlist: Dead & Company | Wrigley Field | Chicago, IL | 06/10/23

Set One: Truckin’ > Smokestack Lightning (Howlin’ Wolf), Althea, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, High Time > All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan) > Bertha > Good Lovin’ (The Rascals)

Set Two: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, St. Stephen > Drums > Space> Uncle John’s Band > Cumberland Blues > The Other One [1], Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson)

Encore: Brokedown Palace > Playing in the Band [2], One More Saturday Night

[1] Verse 2 only, completed from Friday

[2] Completed from Friday