Dead and Company 6/01/18: Men of High Degree

After opening summer tour 2018 up at Mansfield, Massachusetts Dead and Company took their interpretation of the Grateful Dead’s music to Camden, New Jersey. Following the trend of new tunes set in Mansfield the band debuted another GD tune into their repertoire, “Jack-A-Roe”.
 
To start the night the boys launched into, “Jack Straw”. I’ve attended nearly thirty Dead and Company shows and this, “Jack Straw”, was undoubtedly the slowest one I’ve heard to date. And according to otherones.net I’ve gotten a Dead and Company Jack Straw 8 times. I hear a lot of banter about the speed of songs, specifically, “Shakedown Street”. I really don’t think the issue is as pressing with, “Shakedown Street” as it is with, “Jack Straw”, were you can literally hear some folks in the band tugging to get it going faster while some are trying to slow it down. Of course, this is understandable. We need to understand Bob Weir’s style of playing to understand why the pace is so slow. Jack Straw already has lightning quick chord changes and Bobby feeds off playing chords in multiple areas of the neck. He’s not just sticking to the normal top of the neck E-F#-C#-A-E-Bm-D-A-E-G#-A.. Etc chord changes. Bobby is actively trying to give the song different unique phrasing all across the neck. The machine might start up a bit rusty but I can tell you it’ll speed up and the culmination is worth it. Regardless, Bobby is 70 years old.. How many 70 year old folks do you know like Bob Weir?
 
The night heated up after a snoozer opener when the band swiftly shifted into, “Cold Rain and Snow”. Mayer ripped up the blues tune in a heady Stevie Ray Vaughan fashion and Bobby complimented with piercing rhythmic reactions. The Americana first set continued with the fall tour debuted, “Deep Elem Blues”. This is the zone where Mayer as a blues player really succeeds and Bobby mindfully crafts setlists around that notion. The debut of, “Jack-a-Roe” came next. This one is a tune I haven’t expected them to play. I thought we’d see the debut of “Brother Esau” or “Lazy River Road” before we’d get a tune like, “Jack-a-Roe”. One of those old-world picking tunes that Jerry truly owned. Regardless, the band played a smile worthy version of the tune and got comfortable with it pretty early on. I’m eager to see where the more matured version of this for D&C is going to go. The boys tore down the house with, “Loser” next. “Loser” featured a hair raising solo by Mayer and everyone on stage obviously looked like they were having lots of fun. Speeding up the pace the boys launched into, “Bertha”. With things going in a more positive direction after a rough first half of the set, “Cassidy”, was summoned. The mixolydian magic unfolded and eventually laid the groundwork for the boys to thunder back into, “Jack Straw” to fix the ills they sewed with the opener. Good end to a first set with a very J-Rad like setlist vibe. Jack Straw sandwiches aren’t seen everyday, folks!
“Not Fade Away” opened up the second set and had the whole amphitheatre boogying to the Bo-Diddley beat and Grateful Dead cover classic. The Dead song of all Dead songs, arguably, but nonetheless, “Dark Star”, was called upon which brought things further out into space. Good jam but nothing spectacular. An upbeat “St. Stephen” came next which turned into the ballad, “Black Muddy River”, which then melted into “drums > space”. Black Muddy River into space? Hmm.. Don’t quote me on this but I can’t be sure that Jerry ballad has been placed before “drums > space” much. Usually, “Black Muddy”, takes us back to reality after a trip to the cosmos with Mickey. Good seeing the boys throwing songs around the setlist.
 
“The Wheel”, brought everyone at Camden back into reality from space. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the little reggae jams, “The Wheel” brings out of D&C towards the end of the song. The vocal trade offs are also a huge highlight. “The Wheel” encompasses the ever-changing landscape of Grateful Dead songs perfectly. Mayer took it upon himself to shove Paul Simon’s, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” into the end of the jam. Perfectly executed and a nice treat from, “Graceland”. The highlight of the night came next, “Wharf Rat”. “Wharf Rat” is one of the Dead’s most sought after jam machines but yet it is seldomly played by D&C with an average of 4 times played per year. The boys really brought the house down with this one. To wrap up the night the boys sandwiched the set by going back into, “Not Fade Away”. To leave the crowd even happier the boys stormed the stage once again for a beautiful, “Ripple” encore. Tonight the boys will return to Camden.. Will they have more tricks up their sleeve? We shall see.. The golden road continues.
 
Setlist
 
Set 1
Jack Straw >
Cold Rain and Snow
Deep Elem Blues
Jack-A-Roe >
Loser > Bertha
Cassidy >
Jack Straw
 
Set 2
Not Fade Away
Dark Star >
St. Stephen >
Black Muddy River
Drums >
Space >
The Wheel >
Diamonds on Soles of her Shoes >
The Wheel
Wharf Rat >
Not Fade Away
 
Encore
Ripple

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