It can be hard for a band to lose its lead singer, but can be even harder to find someone to fill that spot if it so happens that the band wants to come back together and play music again. The Dead has lost one of the most influential musicians in the world, but was able to bring is spirit to the stage by finding someone who could even come close to matching up. So when I found out I’d be seeing Dead & Co. , I was not only excited to see the remaining members of the band I loved and adored, but I was also anxious to see just how these new kids on the block would hold up with the older heads. John Mayer is a quite seasoned musician, but I was excited to see how much of his own style he was going to bring into the performance. Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti were new musicians to me, but, upon some digging when I got home, I had learned that Burbridge is a Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist and Chimenti had played with Weir before in his band Ratdog.
The stadium was full of laughter and anticipation. Deadheads old and young could be seen from the deck area of the stadium. People smiled when you made eye contact. The air smelled of delicious food and the energy flowing between all of us was positive and inviting. I even got to my seat without someone huffing and puffing that I had to pass them to get to it. It was like we weren’t in New York at all. Once I sat down and settled in, we all waited with anticipation. I had come a long way to see these guys and I was hoping these men were still feeling the groove after being on tour for so long. They’d been touring since the end of May and I was sure the younger guys could handle it, but the original members are in their late sixties and early seventies.
When all members came on stage, I wondered where how we would start off. Taking no prisoners they grooved their way right into a funky Shakedown Street. Bob weir broke through his old man rasp of what can only be described as the smoothest expression of a personal favorite of mine. They went right into my next favorite, Jack Straw. They already had me wowed and continued to play Dead Classics like Althea, Casey Jones, Dark Star, Friend of the Devil, The Other One, and Wharf Rat.
Mayer, Burbidge at Chimenti were in no way out of place in this lineup. Each bringing their own skills and influences into the strange and heady brew that is the music of the Grateful Dead, they came together in a medley of melody. But, the more seasoned musicians definitely had their time to shine. Donna Jean Godchaux brought a soulful smoothness to tracks like Sugaree, Passenger, Friend of the Devil, and Fire on the Mountain. Best of all, was when Hart and Kreutzmann took to their drums and created a soundscape of tribal and electronic insanity with the bonus of a trippy visual projection.
It was amazing to see and hear the way so many musicians who come from different backgrounds and different generations were able to bring their sound to the music and stand out, but also work within one another and communicate so well on stage.
Listen to the show here