Once upon a summer tour, summer 2017, it was a hot and humid day in the mountain kissed town of Boulder when Dead and Company opened their first set and debuted, “Dancing In The Streets”. In a state of awe and waking bliss, for myself in attendance, I thought, “Is this really real? Has this machine made it THIS far?”. It seemed like only yesterday the sextet announced their single debut show on Halloween 2015. The music was tight, the bands’ faces were glowing, and I felt as though my ears were being blessed to the closest thing they’d ever hear live to a 77’ Dancin’ jam. Certainly, what I was hearing transcended the rules of the cosmos. Perhaps there was a rip in the space-time continuum that opened up on that hazy day in Boulder, Colorado. Or maybe it was just our boys having too much fun. You judge for yourself
Well, either the fun returned last night or the space-time continuum was ripped upon once again when Weir and the troops greeted Philadelphia on their third fall tour stop with a high energy, “Dancin in the Streets” opener. The evolution of this tune is extraordinary.. See below and you will never guess it is the same tune at all. Let alone the Martha Reeves original.
Following Mayer’s disco chops took everyone in Philadelphia for a routine music swinging ride Bob Weir rode the band into a thunderous, “Ramble on Rose”. Afterward, the energy would be toned down to a level reminiscent of those childhood days of river walks and fluffy clouds with “Row Jimmy”. Our friends “lit out from Reno” next with “Friend of the Devil”. Have you ever noticed that the main protagonist makes it to Reno, Nevada to Utah in one day? What is his mode of transportation? Running? Well, it appears to be. That would make his journey impossible, wouldn’t it? Well, no. If one wants to believe Hunter and Garcia were men of historical thought, which they are, perhaps they were mindful that in the 1800’s during a period of time Reno was a territory of Utah. Perhaps our protagonist never left Reno in the first place? Maybe he just ran to the closest cave in town he could to escape. Mayer would be happy to put his blues background to work with a crunchy, “New Minglewood Blues”. “West LA Fadeaway” and “Let It Grow” would be the timeless tunes chosen to close out the first set. Following a routine set break the jam behemoth, “Dark Star” was summoned. Clocking in 28 minutes long Dead and Company made the conscious decision to pull every string necessary to steal the faces of Philadelphia. After sending the audience on a trip that Buzz Aldrin would have considered interstellar, Weir took charge and grounded the band back to their blues roots. “Truckin” seeped into a solid rendition of Howling Wolf’s “Smokestack Lighting” with Bobby heroically representing the pain in Wolf’s original.
Shoes tightened. Wine poured. Time to bust out a deal or two. Featuring various chord tones reminiscent of a late 80’s Garcia Mayer thundered into “Deal”. Humorously, the Wells Fargo arena immediately turned into a hazy hotbox of smoke. Perhaps everyone who brought kind herb to the show simultaneously thought, “Well shit we’ve been sharing this for a special occasion and HERE it is”. The deal went down and the deal went down in fashion.
You’d think Mayer would have run out of energy with all of that boogie-woogie blues madness but he smirked and continued jamming into a beautifully executed, “Eyes of the World” which highlighted Oteil’s bass playing. Although his style is significantly different than that of Phil Lesh, Oteil has shown time and time again in, “Eyes” that he is a force to be reckoned with.
Eyes gradually gave its way to Drums > Space which was cut short by Weir, which seemed to not sit very well with Mickey who loomingly gave Weir the stink eye throughout, “Dear Prudence”, which was last played at Dead and Company’s past summer stop in Arizona. I could catch a lot of heat for a bold statement like this but if you closed your eyes during the next jam escapade the boys took upon themselves, “Uncle John’s Band”, you could have sworn you were listening to Garcia himself. Certainly, Mayer has done his work on Garcia’s signature Mixolydian mode scale shapes and chromatic pulls off. Mayer has made a concrete image that he will not play a Jerry clone. However, there are moments in his playing, whether subconscious or not, that echo that of Garcia. To close the set the boys polished off a hootin’ nanny “Goin Down The Road Feelin’” bad which was juxtaposed with a solemn but painfully beautiful, “Black Muddy River” encore. As always, the road never ends, and as I type this the boys are in route to Massachusetts for a 2 night run in Boston.