The last time I saw Dead & Company I left at the break between sets and rocknyc scribe Ken Davis mastered the review for us (here). That was 2017 and Ken found the performance spotty and the sound system wanting. Fast forward five years and I made a return trip, firm in the knowledge that I would leave at the end of the first set again but with the fillip that I would rush home and finish it on nugs pay per view.
The evening was a long one and it wasn’t great but it was good, the second set was sunk by the “drums” and “space”, percussive nightmare in the middle, but the first set was first rate and worth the price of admission, and the encore was almost as good. Consider the second set, really the meat and potatoes of the evening, Dead & Co at their spaciest and most acid baked, whereas the first set and the encore were american beauties.
Grateful Dead’s first generation of fans are dying off, the pandemic didn’t help, but the Great Grandparents are real dead and the following generations, no kids but plenty of 20 and 30 somethings, are still around to fill the baseball stadiums, and though not sold out, I’d be surprised if there were less than 30K Deadheads there, all having a real time away from inflation and abortion rights and not bogeying that joint, my friend. From the upper levels it was just a gorgeous way to see a concert and as for Bob Weir… he has morphed into the White Knight in Through The Looking Glass
It was a gorgeous evening and, as you’d expect, the vibe was excellent, and as you wouldn’t expect, a sort of liberal American melting part. The warm but not overly warm weather was perfect and the nosebleeds were busy but with pockets of emptiness where you can luxuriate and feel a part and also disparate from the surroundings at the ballpark. The first set was just about flawless with John Mayer doing half of the heavy lifting and shining in full Americana regalia on “Bertha” and John and Bob trading lines on a stupendous “Tennessee Jed” (does anybody remember Levon Helm’s epic take? it was along those lines), the set was over an hour and a quarter and lead to the best moment of the night, again with Mayer taking the lead, on “Don’t Ease Me In”. It was a set in a good mood, with Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann returned from a back injury and the audience screaming its approval every time the CCTV panned on him. First he just smiled but finally he waved a stick at us in salutation. The encore of the entire night, some four hours after the start, had a tremendous “Sugar Magnolia” and sent us home with a spring in our steps.
But that second set… 15 minutes of other drummer Mickey Hart and bassist Oteil Burbridge (already a legend through his work with the late lamented Allman Brothers) percussion exercises that morph into a spacy, patchy and relentlessly tedious space age jam and killed all momentum, though they certainly had help with a deadly “Not Fade Away” (remember the Grateful Dead covering “I Second That Emotion” on Letterman? -that bad), and really, once they got past the fifth song of the second set, the fine “I Know You Rider” you could put a fork in em. Still, after watching the first part from a different time zone, it was interesting to watch the live stream ($30 – you get it for 48 hours) for part two, a beautiful persian rug, Bob shoeless, John, who is in his forties, had grown into himself while sporting a Staten Island tee-shirt and cans over his ears, and had earned his role as the Jerry Garcia of the band.
The further we get from the 1960s, the harder it is not to be wowed by what was the greatest generation of Americans, greater than WWII which wasn’t obvious till we reached the 2020s, where the cultural (and pop) maelstrom changed the world in ways we can’t seem to manage now: the General Admission audience upfront were clearly the ancestors of the Dead’s earliest fans-it was like a hippie joyfulness and a pleasure to be part of.
a snapshot of big hits and high tides, mostly high tides.
There is just a lot to love
the sound seemed to erupt from every side of the room
still on top
“danceable music for the end of days”
contracts its world in Nashisms
let’s take what we are offered
It’s the music, stupid
a restless and fearless freak show