Dead & Company Honors Robert Hunter On Halloween At Madison Square Garden

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Dead & Company took the stage on Thursday for the first time since Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter died in September. The sextet paid tribute to Robert by loading the setlists for both sets at last night’s “Fall Fun Run” opener at Madison Square Garden in New York City with songs featuring lyrics by Hunter. Dead & Company continued a Halloween tradition by encoring with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves Of London.”

The band – which consists of Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann as well as John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti – opened the show in unusual fashion by performing the tender “Ripple.” Weir and Mayer both utilized acoustic guitars for “Ripple” while an image of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter was displayed on screens near the stage. Bobby wore a funeral kilt as he did at a private Robert Hunter celebration held at Terrapin Station last month.

“Shakedown Street” followed “Ripple” and gave the band their first chance to stretch out. Mayer weaved together one inventive melody after another but the jam really hit its stride once Dead & Company pulled off a key change in the middle of the improv. Chimenti laid down a descending riff that served as the basis for a jam that was one of the highlights of the show and left many wondering, “Is this still ‘Shakedown’?” A celebratory “Bertha” came next ahead of a “Loser” in which John Mayer shined both for his vocal harmonies and for the bluesy approach he took towards his solo when it came to tone and phrasing.

The parade of Garcia/Hunter gems continued with “They Love Each Other” and “Tennessee Jed.” Dead & Company ended the frame with a rare first set “Terrapin Station.” The six-piece delivered an emotion-laden rendition of the title track from the Grateful Dead’s 1977 album that was highlighted by the interplay between Chimenti and Mayer. Mickey Hart took the mic after the set with Bill Kreutzmann and the pair “inducted” Oteil Burbridge into The Rhythm Devils. Hart led a “horning” ceremony in which the bassist was given and sported a mask featuring Rhythm Devil horns.

Dead & Company began last night’s second set with an exploratory “Playing In The Band.” Burbridge quickly found a pocket from which he anchored the jam. Chimenti focused on piano as he channeled Bruce Hornsby throughout the “Playing In The Band” and also guided the band back from “Type II” territory into “Playing In The Band Reprise.” An interesting bit of improvisation connected the reprise with “Truckin’.” The capacity crowd roared in approval at the song selection and the mention of “New York.”

While D&C played “Truckin'” fairly straight, they inserted a meaty jam within the “Uncle John’s Band” that followed. Once again, Mayer and Chimenti pushed each other to great heights and the guitarist had a huge grin as the connected on riffs with the keyboardist. It was then Oteil’s chance to provide lead vocals on a gorgeous “China Doll.” Burbridge made the most of his opportunity while Mayer uncorked an emotional solo. “Eyes Of The World” came next and featured a strong Mayer/Chimenti duet and a master class in bass soloing from Burbridge.

After “Eyes,” the instrumentalists vacated the stage to leave Hart and Kreutzmann to start the evening’s “Drums” segment. The pair seemed to use a “Spooky” theme as they pounded out evil beats. Oteil, the newest Rhythm Devil, emerged after a few minutes to join in with Billy and Mickey. Eventually, Hart moved over to The Beam and spent a few minutes strumming the instrument to provide droning notes. Mayer, Weir, Chimenti and Burbridge returned soon thereafter to engage in a trip through “Space.” The improvisational section was a pretty, major-key affair that laid the perfect base for “The Wheel.”

Dead & Company quickly worked up their own approach to “The Wheel” shortly after the band was formed that includes a reggae-fied jam towards the end. The sextet shined during this segment on Thursday as Mayer led the group through a few bars of Maurice Williams’ “Stay.” Weir then stepped up to the mic to belt out “Standing On The Moon,” one of Hunter’s last great songs. The energy picked up in a big way when Dead & Company charged into the “Sugar Magnolia” that ended the set. Dead & Company went on to encore with “Werewolves Of London” in typical Dead Halloween fashion. The band returns to MSG tonight.

Photos Shot by Adam McCullough

Fan-Shot Videos

They Love Each Other Captured by Matt Frazier

Loser Captured by Sean Roche

China Doll Captured by Sean Roche

Werewolves of London Captured by Sean Roche

Setlist

Set One: Ripple, Shakedown Street > Bertha, Loser, They Love Each Other, Tennessee Jed, Terrapin Station

Set Two: Playing In The Band > Truckin’ > Uncle John’s Band > China Doll > Eyes Of The World > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Standing On The Moon > Sugar Magnolia

Encore: Werewolves Of London

Tour Dates for Dead & Company