Dead & Company Welcomes George Porter Jr. In New Orleans
After having to cancel a handful of dates last fall when guitarist John Mayer had to undergo emergency appendectomy surgery, Dead & Company made good on their promise to return to the three cities they had to postpone starting Saturday night in New Orleans. The six-piece band, who are coming fresh off their inaugural Playing In The Sand destination event, played their first 2018 show of the year in the United States at the Smoothie King Center, which saw them welcome out a local legend for a string of songs during their first set.
The night got underway with a punchy take on “Feel Like A Stranger” that found Bob Weir vamping a bit on both the “If this were love now how would I know?” and “Gonna be a long, long, crazy, crazy night” lyrics as the band locked in on a funky groove. The Go To Heaven track segued straight into the opening guitar lines of “The Music Never Stopped,” keeping a bit of the New Orleans swampy flavor going. Mayer got his first chance of the night to sing lead next on “Cold Rain & Snow.” The old folk song gave the guitarist and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti their first chance of the night to play off each other. After a high energy start to the set D&C slowed things down with another traditional folk tune, this time turning to “Peggy-O.” The standout take saw Chimenti throw down a beautiful piano solo and Bobby impassionately sing the unrequited love song, which includes the line “And he’s buried in the Louisiana country-O.” The band stuck to their Americana side as a campfire sing-a-long take on “Friend Of The Devil” followed.
The biggest surprise of the night came next when bassist Oteil Burbridge turned over his spot on the stage to another bass player as local hero George Porter Jr. (The Meters) emerged. On Friday night Burbridge was a surprise guest at Busted Down On Tchoupitoulas St., Part II. at Howlin’ Wolf, where he reportedly joined Porter and an all-star ensemble for a take on “Eyes Of The World.” Last night, however, Porter subbed for Burbridge on a three-song run that got underway with a “Smokestack Lighting” that saw Weir and the 70-year-old bassist swap verses on the Howlin’ Wolf classic. The augmented act dipped back into the Grateful Dead catalog as they dove head first into “Bertha” with Mayer leading the charge. The band brought their first frame to an end with “Sugaree” as Porter got to sing lead as his raspy vocals gave the tune a decidedly bluesy feel.
D&C got their second set in the Crescent City underway with a 25+ minute take on traditional pairing of “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain,” with the latter giving Oteil his first chance of the night to front the band. The band slowly wound its way into “Truckin'” next. The road song, which includes the line “Busted down on Bourbon Street” (a reference to the Grateful Dead’s 1970 arrest in New Orleans) received a boisterous response from the sold-out crowd. A tender take on “Ship Of Fools” followed with “Uncle John’s Band” coming ahead of the “Drums” > “Space” portion of the night. The free-form psychedelic excursion eventually worked its way into the second ballad of the set with Weir delivering “Stella Blue.” Dead & Company closed the frame out with a night-appropriate take on the party anthem “One More Saturday Night.” The sextet brought their evening to end with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves Of London” as the encore.
Dead & Company return to the stage tomorrow night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida for the second of three makeup shows. Watch pro-shot video of the openers from each set, along with fan-shot video captured by btragal and check out the full setlist below: