Dead and Company | photo by John Bartol for WXPN
Need a friend for the night? Go to a Dead & Company show.
Dead & Company played Wells Fargo Center Thursday night, and after watching this show, I’ve decided that this is a band everybody needs to see at least once. Watching original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann jam on and on and on with the most notable new member John Mayer is entrancing. It’s hard to look away, even as their jams approach the fifteen minute mark. They’re not just repeating the chorus over and over; they’re following the song’s basic rhythm and structure while also exploring new melodies and ideas on the spot. That’s where the appeal comes from: like the Grateful Dead before them, and the generations of bands they inspired, Dead & Company could play the same setlist throughout their tour and each night would still sound different. Last night, they opened the first set with “Dancing in the Street,” a Martha Reeves and The Vandellas cover, which then seamlessly transitioned into Grateful Dead’s “Ramble on Rose.”
I’ve been to plenty of concerts, but this was the first time that I noticed nearly everybody was off their phone and just watching and present. I’ve never seen that before, ever, especially at a venue as big as the Wells Fargo Center. Everybody was just happy to be there, and listening to these truly timeless songs makes you feel like there could never be anything wrong. When you’re in Dead & Company’s presence, the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
What really fascinates me, though, is that this band is the kind of band that people see thirty, forty, even fifty times in their life. This is a band that will truly never get old. There wasn’t a single person in the crowd who didn’t know the words to “Eyes of the World” or “Uncle John’s Band,” no matter what age they were. I think that’s a testament to what the word timeless means. There’s also a weird sense of appreciation in watching this band and wanting to be as talented as they are, while also just knowing that you probably never will be, and then being completely okay with that. I can’t imagine what goes on in Weir or Mayer’s minds while they’re on stage – their thoughts must be in sync because every single song that was played was absolutely seamless.
Last night’s show was my first time ever seeing Grateful Dead in any form, I was lucky enough to attend with two seasoned fans, and I was told that last night’s set was unbeatable. Not only did they cover The Beatles’s “Dear Prudence”
for the first time ever and deliver an incredible “Drums” into “Space,” the percussive staple of dead gigs, but they encored with Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River.” The thing that gave me chills, though, was when the band was finally finished and they all gently put their instruments down to applaud the crowd and each other. It was like they hadn’t just been consistently playing off the top of their heads for nearly four hours.
If you need a friend for the night – go to a Dead & Company show. Most concerts I’ve been to are so full of love, but this one just tops them all. Everybody loves each other, and it makes me wish more aspects of our lives felt as inclusive and harmonic as this night did.
You can catch Dead & Company next in Boston for two nights on 11/17 and 11/19 at TD Garden.
Below, you can listen to their entire set from Wells Fargo Center last night, courtesy of taper Keith Litzenberger.