Dead & Company featuring Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart joined by John Mayer, Jeff Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge brought a two-night stand at one the country’s most historic ballparks to a close on Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. The show also marked the end of the East Coast portion of the tour as the band now heads to the West Coast for five more performances to end the run. One-time Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux was D&C’s special guest as she was last night, at Citi Field in NYC and at Bonnaroo.
A brief opening jam gave way to “Truckin’.” Early in the band’s touring days tempo was a big story as D&C liked to play at a slow and plodding pace. Now don’t get me wrong, no one will ever mistake Dead & Company for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead when it comes to intensity, but it seems the six-piece has responded to the critics by picking up the pace at times. Saturday’s “Truckin'” was performed at a tempo similar to Grateful Dead versions. Up next was a frisky cover of Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” propelled by The Rhythm Devils and featuring a perky organ solo from Chimenti and blistering riffage from Mayer. Mayer had his first turn on lead vocals for “They Love Each Other.” Donna Jean made her first appearance of the night to add harmony vocals on “TLEO.” Godchaux sounded good singing the high harmonies.
Dead & Company’s versions of “Deal” have showcased the talents of the “youngsters” in the band – Jeff, Oteil and John. Saturday’s take was no exception as Chimenti’s barrelhouse piano work brought back memories of Keith Godchaux, Oteil didn’t play the same bass line twice over the course of the song and you could almost see smoke coming off Mayer’s fretboard. The guitarist was so enthused he started hopping up and down towards the peak of “Deal.” Following multiple climaxes, Dead & Company took it down a notch for a throbbing jam that served as a lead-in to “Bird Song.” Both “Deal” and “Bird Song” (as well as the aforementioned “TLEO”) featured Godchaux.
Weir and Mayer shared lead vocals on the exquisitely jammed “Bird Song” that was highlighted by almost inhuman runs up the neck of his bass from Burbridge and impressive interplay between the guitarists. Once Mayer had his fill of soloing, he gave a nod to Weir who initiated a segue into “Passenger.” Dead & Company debuted their version of “Passenger” at Bonnaroo and also performed the Terrapin Station track at Citi Field as Donna has sung on all three D&C takes. While tempo wasn’t an issue earlier in the set, “Passenger” was missing the punch that’s crucial to the song. The sextet did pick up the pace for a move into the set-closing “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad.” Both Donna Jean and Oteil were given the honors of singing lead on a verse a piece of “GDTRFB.”
The six-piece was looking to jam to start the second set as they opened with an exploratory “Playing In The Band.” After Bobby belted the lyrics, Dead & Company took the crowd on an adventurous open-ended journey. Once again, Oteil kept dropping these jaw-dropping riffs as Mayer unleashed a torrent of MuTron-heavy, quickfire licks. Donna Jean was on hand for “Playin'” which ended with the “Playing In The Band Reprise” chords. “Estimated Prophet” came next with John Mayer continuing his adept MuTron usage. Godchaux continued to sing harmony on “Estimated” as she did on the “He’s Gone” that followed. Mayer infused plenty of emotion into his playing all night, but especially on “He’s Gone.” Bobby, Donna, Jeff and John’s four-part harmonies on the song were beautiful, well at least until Weir started shouting.
John Mayer’s best solo of the night came during “Sugaree.” The Rhythm Devils gave the guitarist a solid anchor to work off of while Burbridge countered Mayer’s melodies throughout. What was also interesting about “Sugaree” is that John didn’t use any of his Jerry-esque tones throughout, instead going with a more bluesy tone straight out of his John Mayer Trio days. Just as “Sugaree” came to a close, the Connecticut native kicked on his MuTron tone and off Dead & Company went on a Bobby-sung “Fire On The Mountain.” The band raced through the first “Fire” they’ve played at a show that didn’t feature “Scarlet Begonias” earlier in the evening.
When the short “Fire On The Mountain” finished, most of the instrumentalist left the stage to The Rhythm Devils. Oteil Burbridge stuck around and banged on a vibraphone, while Mickey attacked The Beam with a metal baton and Billy focused on keeping the beat going. “Drums,” like “Fire,” was very short though Hart stuck around to kiss The Beam as the evening’s free-form “Space” excursion began. Both guitarists garnered wild tones from their axes for a few minutes before Chimenti started up “Days Between.”
Bobby sang “Days Between” as he did at the Dead & Company debut of the late era Garcia/Hunter ballad at The Fillmore in May and the other subsequent versions. The end of “Days Between” featured an interesting, out-of-the-box jam before Weir pulled the trigger on a set-closing “Not Fade Away.” Donna Jean returned to the stage for the wild “Not Fade Away” which included both a vocal jam and scatting from Oteil straight from his Aquarium Rescue Unit days. The crowd kept the “You know our love will not fade away” chant going throughout the encore break until the band arrived on stage. An expected “One More Saturday Night” encore gave the night an energetic finish.
Dead & Company are now off for the next five nights. The tour resumes at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Friday night.
Full Show Audio (Taped by Keith Antaya)
Set One: Jam > Truckin’ (bw) > Big River (bw), They Love Each Other (jm)*, Deal (jm)* > Bird Song (jm/bw)* > Passenger (bw/dg)* > Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad (bw/ob/jm/dg)*
Set Two: Playing In The Band (bw)* > Estimated Prophet (bw)* > He’s Gone (bw/jm)* > Sugaree (jm)* > Fire On The Mountain (jm)* > Drums > Space > Days Between > Not Fade Away*
Encore: One More Saturday Night*
* – w/ Donna Jean Godchaux
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