This past weekend marked Dead & Company’s third straight yearly appearance at Citi Field. In 2016, the shows were all the evidence that this reviewer needed to be convinced that John Mayer and the remaining touring members of the Dead were a perfect match. Last summer, the band played a single show which wasn’t quite as strong, while this year they returned for the double shot and the results were particularly satisfying.
So following a blistering Friday night show, Saturday the 16ht of June kicked things into high gear from the get-go. The opening “Sugar Magnolia” assured that this would not be a standard Saturday Night show. There were some nice solos and it was clear that the “Sunshine Daydream” would be coming later. “Mississippi Half-Step” allowed the band really open things up and after “Bertha” the audience had already gotten three legitimate show-openers. “Comes A Time,” which Oteil Burbridge had debuted at Citi last summer was a real treat and Mayer lent some nice fills to go with his soulful vocals.
As most Grateful Dead related performances, the real meat of this show, however, was the second set. “Help On The Way” into “Slipknot!” found some great spaces and there were many times it seemed like they were ready to move on only to have the jam continue. Jeff Chimenti lent some keyboard fills that sounded right out of the Keith Godchaux era. Mayer really gave it his all and went through some blues (his wheelhouse) and some other-worldy stuff.
“Franklin’s Tower” also had some fantastic peaks, where after a fiery jam, Chimenti took a stellar solo. “St. Stephen” started strong, but they stumbled over the second verse, where Mayer recently said in an interview that he’s come to understand that Deadheads love the trainwrecks. It’s because they know it is all in the name of trying to create magic in the moment.
The crowd was rewarded with a jam that was unhurried and built to a nice peak. The “William Tell Bridge” and “The Eleven” were apparently sound-checked Friday. The rehearsal paid off as Bob Weir nailed all the words without looking at the teleprompters once.
The second half of the second set wasn’t quite as strong. Mayer had some nice jams in the first part of “Eyes Of The World.” Chimenti, who had already shone in “Franklin’s,” took the second jam on his own. It’s a testament to how strong his playing is that he was given Brent Mydland’s organ to use. The transition into “Stella Blue” was a little rough, but it all came together for a strong “Sunshine Daydream” to close.
Even though “One More Saturday Night” was a given at this point, they played the shit out of it and even did a nice little extension after it sounded like they were done. Dead and Company will be on tour the rest of the month before heading west. All the principals have said they’ll keep the company going as long as they can.