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Dead and Company, Citi Field, Saturday, June 24th. 2017, Reviewed

I saw the Grateful Dead a few times in my youth, and always enjoyed them, but I was not an obsessive Deadhead like my younger brothers. I always thought their best work was their most focused, especially the Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty albums. Since Jerry Garica’s death the surviving members have carried on in various configurations. Dead and Company is the first one I’ve seen. There are many parallels to the last years of the Allman Brothers, with Weir being Gregg Allman, Kreutzman and Hart being Trucks and Jaimoe, and John Mayer and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti standing in for hired gun guitarist Trucks and Haynes. They even used the same bass player, Oteil Burbridge. While I always felt the Allmans were more than the sum of their parts due to the great chemistry they had, I did not always get the same feeling from Dead and Company.

It was clear from the start that this was going to be an uneven performance. It was not helped by a somewhat muddy sound system, surprising from a band that was always obsessive over the quality of their sound. At best, the band was thrilling; at worst they were almost unlistenable boring.

The show opened with the old Motown chestnut “Dancing in the Street”. No groove, not well done at all. They moved on to “Jack Straw”, very nice with Weir and Mayer trading lead vocals. “Tennessee Jed” was fun, and the set closer “One More Saturday Night” cooked. Some of the others were hit or miss.

After the first set, the band took a 50- yes, 50!- minute break. To me this was unprofessional and very excessive. My only thought is that the venue wanted all the stoned aging hippies to have plenty of time to satisfy their munchies at the concession stand.

The second set opened with a terrific ‘Scarlet Begonias”, followed by a bluesy and tight “Viola Lee Blues”, Mayer’s strongest playing and vocal of the night. “Estimated Prophet” meandered. “Comes A Time “feature a rare and excellent Oteil Burbridge lead vocal. “Eyes of the World” led into a 20 minute snorefest of drum solos and free form atonal bullshit. I guess I wasn’t stoned enough (or at all) to enjoy it. I know this has been a mainstay of Dead performances for years, but they would be better served by playing a couple more real songs. Bathroom break opportunity.

The band finished strong. An exciting “The Other One” was followed by a powerful “Morning Dew” with a particularly strong vocal by Weir. In his old age he has taken on the look of a slightly demented Old Testament prophet, in stark distinction to his boyish appearance in the band’s early days. His voice has held up well. Mayer, Burbridge and Oteil are all excellent musicians, and when they songs came together they were exciting to hear. Unfortunately their were too may times it didn’t happen.

The encore was a highlight – “Touch of Grey” with Mayer subbing for Garcia on vocals, and “Johnny B Goode”. RIP Chuck.

Some additional observations: I never saw a crowd where so many people spent more time dancing in the concourse than in their seats. Oh well, better sight lines for me. And I was a disappointed that there were no songs from my two favorite albums.

Grade: B-

Dancing in the Street
(Martha Reeves and The Vandellas cover)
Jack Straw
(Grateful Dead cover)
Here Comes Sunshine
(Grateful Dead cover)
Tennessee Jed
(Grateful Dead cover)
Cold Rain and Snow
(Grateful Dead cover)
Bird Song
(Jerry Garcia cover)
One More Saturday Night
(Bob Weir cover)

Set 2:
Scarlet Begonias
(Grateful Dead cover)
Viola Lee Blues
(Cannon’s Jug Stompers cover)
Estimated Prophet
(Grateful Dead cover)
Comes a Time
(Jerry Garcia cover) (Oteil on lead vocals; live… more )
Eyes of the World
(Grateful Dead cover)
Drums
(Grateful Dead cover)
Space
(Grateful Dead cover)
The Other One
(Grateful Dead cover)
Morning Dew
(Bonnie Dobson cover)

Encore:
Touch of Grey
(Grateful Dead cover) (synchronized to light show)
Johnny B. Goode
(Chuck Berry cover)

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