Dead & Company are wrapping up their 2021 tour with three shows at the historic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA. The first of those performances took place on October 29th to set up a three night run that promised to cover almost all the vital parts of the iconic songbook.
Drummer Bill Kreutzmann was behind the skins after missing a few shows recently with an undisclosed, non-COVID-19 related illness. He seemed fully recovered as he and percussionist Mickey Hart pounded out the beats for the three-hour show. In fact, the entire band seemed reenergized, as compared to past outings. Maybe it was the forced time off due to the pandemic, the subsequent awareness of the fragility of life or perhaps just the rhythm that comes with getting several shows under their belts, but they seemed to play all night with a great sense of urgency.
All of the songs on the well-thought-out set list had a brisker pace than usual. John Mayer’s solos were sharp and funky, while Bob Weir’s vocals sounded great, with more depth and timbre than in the recent past. He also excelled with some fine guitar playing and a haunting slide sequence during “Walking on the Moon,” performed near the end of the show.
The first set opened with a super jam that eventually launched into “Playing in the Band.” About 90 minutes later they rolled out of a lengthy, trippy improvisational journey to revisit the song and close the set. In between, fans were treated to Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” a very pretty Jeff Chimenti piano solo during “Ramble on Rose” and a groovy organ solo during “They Love Each Other.” Fans even got their “Let Oteil Sing” wish when the bassist took over vocals for a slow and intense version of “High Time.”
The second set highlights included a strong Bob Weir vocal romp through “Sugar Magnolia.” Mayer led the way with solid singing and psychedelic guitar solos during a long sequence that included “Help on the Way,” “Slipknot” and frequent follower “Franklin’s Tower.” That segment of the show featured some excellent synchronized percussion sequences by Kreutzmann and Hart, as well as overlaid guitar adventures by Mayer and Weir.
The obligatory “Drums” and “Space” section of the show featured Kreutzmann, Burbridge and Hart doing their Rhythm Devils routine by pounding a vast array of drums situated just behind the regular kits. Eventually Hart was alone on stage for some curiously string and percussion mad-scientist aural adventures.
The other band members eventually returned to the stage for more “Space,” which effortlessly transitioned into “The Other One.” Weir skillfully handled the vocals and both he and Mayer traded delicious guitar licks, moving the instrumental portion into improvisational crescendos. The show concluded with Weir on vocals for a peppy version of “Sunshine Daydream,” as the entire band came back for their encore with Mayer and Weir toting acoustic guitars. Each traded vocal verses as they performed a compelling and charming version of “Ripple” to conclude the performance. While Dead and Company offers something different and perhaps a tad slow than the Phil & Friends and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead touring outfits; there is no replacing Bob Weir and the gravity and weight he brings to the “songs.”
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2021.