Close to two years from their only two appearances at the Garden, the boys are back in the big apple and last night they proved to us they came to New York City for strictly business. John Mayer, who is getting off the tail end of his summer solo tour, immediately jumped into the mold of a cosmically fused child of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jerry Garcia in a funky, “Shakedown Street”. Near the end of the jam, Mayer and Weir played off each other in a groovy set of scat singing. Next, the gang launched into the Dead and Company debut of, “Greatest Story Ever Told”, which featured Bobby howling as though it was the summer of 89’. Surely, a tune that will only get increasingly polished as time goes by. Mayer then took the helm of the jammed wheel with a perfectly executed, “Bertha”. I can’t speak for everyone but I found myself grinning cheek like the Do-Dah man to cheek at this point in the night. As the hour grew, things only got increasingly weirder inside the jam machine, “Cassidy”, was summoned. Further down the line, the sextet “Beat It On Down The Line” with a Dead and Company live debut. The percussive nature of this particular tune echoed in Spring 1990 past. A signature Mayer adopted to take on Jerry’s iconic, “They Love Each Other” came next with Mayer proving to the nay-sayers that a pop vocal background can indeed add a lot of spice a jam song. To close the set, Weir signaled the band into a smoking “Cumberland Blues”, which featured a rocky start but ended up turning into a jam that turned my room into a damp but hollerin’ Cumberland mine in the late 1800’s.
After a lengthy but not unusually long set break, Mayer struck an opening G note on the third fret of his guitar. The familiar groove to be laid down was the opening sequence of the classic Garcia/Hunter dance spectacle, “China Cat Sunflower”, which as usual, soaked into an explosive, “I Know You Rider”. With a such a common start to a second set, the band went into a seabound, “Ship of Fools” with Mayer and Oteil trading off vocals. After being shelved for nearly two years since their Fall 2015 tour the boys found it necessary to bring it out for the summer tour closer to Wrigley Field earlier this year. I myself was in attendance and I could not have dreamed the song would get any tighter than it was at that perfect moment. Well, at MSG, although I was not in attendance Bobby and the troops showed me wrong. The immortal, “Terrapin Station”, came next which featured stunning interplay between Mayer and Weir. Always quintessential to the Dead experience Drums > Space came next. As always, Mickey and Billy continue to expand the realm of possibilities when it comes to rhythm and tripiness this was no exception. There were a couple rocky moments but it was obvious Mickey was playing with “new toys”, such as a conglomerate of tribal vocals, which is something to look forward to in the future. While rough, an echoing "the best of government is no government at all" went through MSG, only blocks away from the infamous Tower of Saraon (aka Trump Tower). As the haze of Drums > Space wore off Weir brought the audience back to earth, or the moon, with, “Standing on the Moon”. As Weir sang, “Somewhere in San Francisco” he choked up a bit, I can’t say for sure, but I know he was thinking of our friend Jerry. Next was the highlight of the night. The Other One. Mayer when full blues psychedelic machine gun mode on this e minor monster of a song everyone at Madison Square Garden had their ticket paid for. One of Dead and Company’s staples, “Casey Jones” that has certainly been redefined since Jerry’s days would be the set closer to this extraordinary night of music.
Being it a Sunday show, our favorite jammers came back on the stage with a roaring, “Samson and Delilah” encore that took everyone to Deadhead church and just when I thought the night was over, the boys surprised me once again and came back with another encore of, “Werewolves of London” that left us all howling at the moon.
All in all, never miss a sunday show!