Dead & Company Deal A Winner On Night 2 At Las Vegas Sphere With Assist From Karl Perazzo

The Grateful Dead offshoot doubled down on several visuals from the first show while still offering plenty of new concepts.

By Andy Kahn May 18, 2024 10:39 am PDT

Dead & Company dealt out the second show of the 24-show residency at the Las Vegas Sphere on Friday night. Percussionist Karl Perazzo, who had the night off from his gig with Santana at House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay, emerged during the second set to sit in with the band.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the adage goes, and sometimes, what happens in Vegas stays the same in Vegas. Dead & Company doubled down on the visuals used during Thursday’s opening Sphere shows, utilizing many of the same stunning graphic presentations from the night before along with a few new ones.

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Seeing many of the same visuals again on Friday was a bit surprising but it allowed me to explore other aspects of the massive scenes and inspect different parts of the presentation, catching things missed on night one, like an image of Jerry Garcia wisping through what resemble a lava lamp on covering the dome. While many were experiencing the visuals for a second time, a substantial portion of the audience was seeing it for the first time and audible wows rippled through the crowd throughout the show, just like on opening night.

Dead & Company — Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and drummer Mickey Hart, alongside guitarist John Mayer, bassist Oteil Burbridge, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and drummer Jay Lane – started off night two with “Samson & Delilah.” Weir delivered a Friday night sermon while the scaffolding shown at the start of the first show again backdropped the band.

The sound in the Sphere was again clear if a little quiet at the show’s onset. There can be a contradictory feeling at times inside the room where the sound can be both loud enough to thump your chest but also at a level where you can comfortably speak to the person next to you.

The scaffolding again unfolded to reveal the Grateful Dead’s 1960s house at 710 Ashbury in San Francisco. I did not mind getting to experience the enthralling ascent from the Bay Area to outer space again and it was once again a truly mind-bending experience to witness the sprawling scene unfold while “Shakedown Street” soundtrack the excursion. “Shakedown” chugged along a steady groove laid down by Burbridge, lifting the energy after the low-key opener.

A lively “Bertha” came in next and the lava lamp effect encapsulated the round room (this is when Jerry peaked in from above). The always welcomed “Crazy Fingers” followed and was perfectly paired with the rainforest-like setting, digital raindrops “falling” in tandem with lyrics referencing rain falling.

A bouncy romp through Johnny Cash’s “Big River” was paired with the classic Western film credits motif with Bob Weir staring as “Ace” alongside his co-starring bandmates.

The first set rolled on with “Good Lovin’” providing the evening’s first new visual experience as a spiraling rainbow tie-dye effect filled the dome and a Steal Your Face appeared in the center of the spiral. An extremely high-definition video of the band members was shown inside the Stealie’s circle. “Good Lovin’” kept spirits high as those in the room responded to the psychedelic imagery.

In the land of blackjack and poker a proper selection of “Deal” was made to close out the first set. The closer was paired with the assemblage of ephemera from Grateful Dead history as posters, ticket stubs, backstage passes and other items came together to give the sensation of a massive wall built behind and above the band.

A purplish/blue hue colored the dome during set break as lyrics from Grateful Dead songs cycled on the screen. The time left until the end of set break occasionally flashed on the screen (I appreciated this feature quite a bit) and it was again indicated when there was 4:20 left on the clock.

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“China Cat Sunflower” led the charge into the second set as the Steal Your Face adorned by roses and draped by massive virtual red stage curtains. “China Cat” bopped along, eventually forming the bridge to “I Know You Rider.”

The most impressive and substantially new visuals accompanied “Rider” as the audience was taken back to a scene in San Francisco, this time outside of the historic Winterland Ballroom where the Dead played many times.

The venue-hopping journey continued as the crowd was taken inside the storied walls of Cornell University’s Barton Hall, site of the Dead’s beloved May 1977 show. The brilliant venue tripping progressed back in San Francisco with representations of the Fillmore and Carousel Ballroom, two places integral to the Dead’s early days performing live as a band. What a fun ride to take during “Rider.”

Weir’s “Estimated Prophet” followed the two-song opener and whomped along while the virtual Wall Of Sound was built behind the band. The Wall Of Sound backdropped is so cool it could be the only thing put behind the band and it would work for an entire show … some other band will have to try taking it on the road perhaps. The Wall Of Sound collapsing into a psychedelic rainbow dancing through space enhanced the “Estimated” jam that was some the deepest and most exploratory improvisation of the night, led by Mayer’s fluttery riffing, Chimenti’s smooth work on the Fender Rhodes and Burbridge’s heavy low end.

A song that’s taken on different roles with Dead & Co., “Cumberland Blues” followed the “Estimated” jam. Perrazo appeared next to Hart and added an extra swinging percussive element to the countryfied rocker. Mayer leaned into “Cumberland,” firing on blistering runs up and down his guitar neck while a depiction of the iconic Skull & Roses poster hung above the band.

The bubbling roar of “The Other One” intro materialized out of “Cumberland” and Perazzo stuck around to augment the song. The liquid light show effect brought the audience back to the Acid Test era as the venue was drenched in a psychedelic wash of colors.

Perazzo naturally stayed for the subsequent “Drums” portion of the set. Burbridge took over Lane’s kit for much of the sequence as the four musicians cycled through an array of polyrhythms. A virtual circle of drums spun and danced in a spiral before morphing into what felt like simultaneously being inside of a kaleidoscope and an aquarium.

Images of the brain appeared as Mickey moved to The Beam to push the drone to subsonic levels. I would pay to see just an hour-long “Drums” and The Beam segment if Mickey ever wants to work something out with the Sphere.

Weir, Mayer, Chimenti and Burbridge came back out to engage in the “Space” improvised sequence. Friday’s concept was loose and quiet, soft around the edges. The four band members were shown in black and white on a screen above the stage as they jangled their way through a bluesy “Space.” The same visual setting was used for the haunting “Black Peter” that grew out of the jam, Weir’s powerful vocals rang out and around the circular room.

Much of the audience around me sat for parts of “Drums,” “Space” and “Black Peter” but nearly no one remained seated when Mayer fired up the opening lick of “Althea.” The energy in the room progressively grew as the song rambled on, Mayer going all in on the peaking solo. A new visual was incorporated while “Althea” raged, a pink amorphous blob oozed around the dome while bubbles showing videos of Mayer floated around. Oteil swayed and grooved, dancing around the stage as he did often during the concert.

Another new visual was introduced as “Morning Dew” entered the fold. The staggering song gripped the audience who watched spaceships blast through outer space with videos of the band members shown in the center of circular aircraft.

The patriotic “U.S. Blues” came as the penultimate song of the second set and was fittingly paired with the Uncle Sam-hat-wearing, motorcycle-riding skeleton from The Grateful Dead Movie animation that incorporated many other Grateful Dead icons.

Like Thursday’s opener, Friday’s show was sans encore. Instead, a news broadcast from the 1960s reporting on the Grateful Dead was played over the PA, teeing up the journey back to 710 Ashbury. Dead & Company fired up “Turn On Your Love Light” for the final song of the night while a virtual Grateful Dead scrapbook flipped through pages of old photographs.

  • Dead & Company Turn Back Time At Dazzling Las Vegas Sphere Debut

    Dead & Company Turn Back Time At Dazzling Las Vegas Sphere Debut

    Dead & Company’s 24-show residency at the Las Vegas Sphere got off to a triumphant start on Thursday night.

I’m leaving Las Vegas after seeing the first two Dead & Company Sphere shows in awe of the venue and the new concert experience. At first, realizing much of the production from the first show was going to be repeated was a bit of a letdown, but you play the cards you’re dealt, and getting to relive some of the sensational visuals again was just as good, if not better, as the first time. There were plenty of new concepts on night two to keep you guessing and one after another was continuously impressive.

There are 22 shows left for Dead & Company’s Sphere residency and I’m already looking at how I can get back to experience it again once I’ve had some time to process these fantastic past two nights in Vegas.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

Setlist Notes
  • [1] w/ Karl Perazzo on percussion.

Setlist info via Phantasy Tour.

The Venue

Sphere [See upcoming shows]

18,600

1 show
5/16/2024

The Music

7 songs

10 songs

17 songs
11 originals / 6 covers / 0 misc

1971

4.12 [Gap chart]

None

All

Crazy Fingers LTP 06/09/2023 (20 Show Gap)

Shakedown Street 15:02

China Cat Sunflower 05:40

Anthem of the Sun - 1, Aoxomoxoa - 1, Workingman's Dead - 2, From the Mars Hotel - 1, Blues for Allah - 1, Terrapin Station - 2, Shakedown Street - 2, Go To Heaven - 1, Built to Last - 1

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Audience Recording (Taped by Tire Iron)


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