Dead & Company successfully kicked off their Summer Tour 2022 on Saturday, June 11 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The six-piece band – Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, John Mayer, Jeff Chimenti, and Oteil Burbridge, returned to the City of Angels after wrapping up their 2021 tour at the Hollywood Bowl last Halloween. The band put on a nearly four-hour show and surprised fans with several rarely heard tracks to go along with standards frequently performed since their launch in 2015. While there was certain recent unproven speculation this might be the last tour for Dead & Company, as the core three push through their mid 70’s, the band members still insist the music never stops.
Kreutzmann missed a few shows last October as he battled a nasty case of pneumonia, so it was a pleasure and relief to see him (now bespectacled) and the other band members on stage at cavernous Dodger Stadium, looking healthy and invigorated. The band came out firing with a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” where Weir, Mayer, and Chimenti traded verses on this providential Dead opener that professed “Get in the groove and let the good times roll.”
Dead & Co followed that up with “Playing in the Band”, which allowed the band to stretch out as Mayer handled lead vocals and used his auto-wah effect for much of his extended, trippy solo while Chimenti also contributed a strong piano sequence. “Playing” segued into “Feel Like a Stranger” with another impressive vocal performance from Weir on the ’80s era Dead favorite. The rare, but always crowd-pleasing Burbridge lead vocal foray happened on an impassioned version of “China Doll.” Mayer took over for “Brown Eyed Women” with nice harmonizing by Weir and Burbridge and the set ended with a slower tempo, but successful versions of “Jack Straw” and “Casey Jones” gave these unsurpassed Robert Hunter lyrics a breath of fresh musical levity.
The band took a lengthy set break but came back sharp with “Althea.” Mayer has admitted that hearing the song on Pandora inspired him to go deeper into the Dead catalog and led to his joining up with the re-formed band. He handled lead vocals and played a riveting solo on his stunning PRS Silver Sky guitar. The band followed that up with “Scarlet Begonias,” which started the strongest musical portion of the opening night’s performance. Weir led on vocals with falsetto harmonizing by Mayer. The entire band went into an extended, instrumental foray with the expressive interplay between Mayer, Weir, Chimenti, and Burbridge.
“Scarlet Begonias” eventually transitioned into “China Cat Sunflower” with Weir still handling lead vocals. Weir and Mayer traded elaborate guitar solos before the song segued into the anticipated, “I Know You Rider.” All of the vocalists contributed pleasingly to the song and Chimenti played a dazzling piano solo.
Burbridge took advantage of a second chance to shine on vocals for “Fire On The Mountain” and he was joined with beautiful harmonies by Mayer and Weir. Mayer went on another wildly entertaining guitar journey before he, Weir, and Chimenti left the stage for the Rhythm Devils, who took over during the “Drums” segment.
Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart pounded out a series of age-defying tribal-sounding beats and were eventually joined by Burbridge for a rhythmic jam. Kreutzmann and Burbridge gave way to Hart who moved to his mesmerizing Beam set up for “Space.” Hart strummed the elaborate instrument and set the foundation for Weir, Mayer, Chimenti, and Burbridge who returned to lay down a psychedelic interlude.
With Kreutzmann back behind the drum kit, the band kicked off the most novel section of the show as they launched into Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” a first for D & C. The song was covered by The Grateful Dead initially in 1984 with Brent Mydland on fiery lead vocals. The band would perform it 58 times through July 21, 1990. During that time, they often worked The Beatles’ “Hey Jude Reprise” into the end of “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” Dead & Company’s Weir and Mayer shared vocals on the song while Mayer led the transition into the instrumental “Hey Jude Reprise.” The stadium resonated as many in the crowd sang the lyrics along with Mayer’s lead guitar. While Dead & Company have yet to perform any Mydland originals in their live repertoire, this may be the closest we get to Brent songs and it was a satisfying addition.
The “Hey Jude Reprise” guitar riff faded into an emotional and soft “Stella Blue” with Weir on vocals. Mayer followed with an effective, blues-infused solo. As a fitting finale to the second set, the band played the day-appropriate “One More Saturday Night” with Weir belting out the vocals, the band ran through a highly energetic version of the song to close the show. The band members came back quickly for a one-song encore and performed Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” a song they have covered seven times since their re-launch and most recently on September 5, 2021. Weir and Mayer alternated vocals while Weir busted out his slide for some sweet guitar work to close the performance.
The triumphant return of Bill Kreutzmann, along with the energized performance by the other band members reinforced our belief that the “boys” shall keep on truckin.’ Their tour continues for two nights at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California before returning to Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., on June 17.
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022\
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022 FB: andy.j.gordon1 IG: andyjgordon1