Dead & Company Delivers Bust Out & Goes Heavy On ‘Viola Lee Blues’ In Wisconsin
After celebrating their 100th show together on Wednesday night in Ohio, Dead & Company brought their current run to one of the Grateful Dead’s favorite summer stops – Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. The sextet marked their triumphant return to the iconic venue, which was closed all last year, with a first set bust out and a second set that saw them weave in and out of one of the iconic tunes from the Dead’s psychedelic ballroom days.
The six-piece act got their night going in The Badger State with a rock-leaning jam that eventually worked its way into “Hell In A Bucket” as the band lit into a fiery version of the In The Dark track. “Brown-Eyed Women” followed as guitarist John Mayer and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti continued to shine on the Americana rocker once again delivering stand-out solos as they have all summer long. D&C kept the uptempo pace going as Bob Weir took charge on a short, but punchy version of “Greatest Story Ever Told.” Weir strapped on an acoustic guitar next for “Deep Elem Blues” which saw Weir, Mayer and bassist Oteil Burbridge swap verses on an extended take on the traditional folk tune.
Weir reached into the Ratdog catalog next, unearthing “Even So” for the first time since July 2016. Weir remained at the helm for “Ramble On Rose.” An inspired take on “Cassidy” saw Weir and Mayer lock in throughout and segued into “Touch Of Grey” to bring the first of four sets at Alpine Valley to a close.
Dead & Company opened up their second frame of the night with “Viola Lee Blues” delivering just the first verse of the prison song before segueing into “Estimated Prophet.” The band took the knotty ode to California for an extended ride as Mayer leaned in on a number of guitar solos that never strayed too far from the song’s familiar tone. The band turned on a dime, dropping straight into a must-hear take on “Uncle John’s Band,” as they gave the Workingman’s Dead tune a lengthy psychedelic workout. Burbridge got his first chance of the night to sing lead fronting the band on a tender take on “China Doll.” The band amped up the funk as they returned to “Viola Lee Blues” with Chimenti turning to the clavinet before they dove into the second verse as they continued to stretch the song out before turning the stage over to Mickey Hart and Bill Kruetzmann for “Drums.” The duo explored their sprawling percussion arsenal before the rest of the band returned to the stage for some cosmic noodling in “Space.” Last night’s extended take found Burbridge and Mayer play face-to-face for the majority of it as “The Wheel” eventually became the landing point.
Unlike the previous versions of “The Wheel” from this summer that featured the band delivering some of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” last night’s take saw the return of a snippet of Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs’ “Stay (A Little Bit Longer)” during the vocal jam. A poignant take on Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” followed with the Dead & Company returning back to “Viola Lee Blues.” Mayer once again stepped up to lead the charge giving the song another extended exploratory workout as they eventually delivered the final verse before transitioning straight into “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” to bring the final frame of the night to a close. Weir and Mayer each strapped on acoustic guitars for the encore, splitting vocal duties on a campfire singalong version of “Ripple.”
Dead & Company finish up their two nights at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy tonight. A webcast is available via nugs.tv.