One year after the Grateful Dead's infamous “Fare The Well” shows in Chicago, three of the band's main musicians are back on the road with the latest collaboration, Dead and Company. Though this band is missing original bassist, Phil Lesh, and features John Mayer on lead guitar and vocals, the vibe that it creates is as strong as any other previous incarnation of the Grateful Dead.
I originally saw this lineup when they came around last fall in Albany, NY, and as a lifelong Deadhead, I wasn't very impressed. I felt that Mayer lacked the passion of both Jerry and Trey, and I was a little hesitant to attend this show in Hartford. But, as I am a fan, I figured I'd give them another chance—and I'm glad that I did. The band that I saw was a completely different animal than I had seen just eight short months ago. Mayer, in particular, appeared completely at ease, and his playing was much more inspired than I had seen him last—that made all the difference.
As with all Dead shows, this performance was broken up into two sets. The first set was solid, opening up with the fan favorite “Hell in a Bucket” followed by some other choice selections including “Cold Rain and Snow,” “Row Jimmy” and the Bob Dylan cover “Queen Jane Approximately.” But the second set was definitely the better of the two. Bob Weir belted out a spirited version of “Estimated Prophet” to start things back up which led into “Eyes of the Word” and a raucous “Deal” with Mayer nailing the lead vocals. During the “Drums/Space” part of the set, it started to rain and a portion of the crowd started to head out early. They missed out though. The band came out of “Space” into “The Wheel,” which was always one of my favorite transitions that the Grateful Dead used to periodically do. They ended the set with “Black Peter” and “U.S. Blues” followed by every single person in the place dancing around to a lively “Touch of Grey” encore.
Though the Grateful Dead is a memory, the band's music still carries on. Considering it does not appear that Lesh will tour again with the group, Billy, Mickey and Bobby are the last cogs in the engine of this musical machine that refuses to slow down. After seeing the way that Mayer has finally fallen into his place in the group, however, I can finally feel at peace that these songs that I have held so sacred will continue maintain their integrity and be performed with the proper passion that they so richly deserve.
Text and photos by Scott Perham
*Disclaimer: The words expressed in photo blog reviews do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Music Connection Magazine.