Dead & Company’s Summer Tour hit Boston in full swing this weekend, bringing a whole lot of fun, color and high spirits for two nights at historic Fenway Park.
Night one kicked off in fine style with “Music Never Stopped” and “Cold Rain and Snow” to follow, the latter sung very nicely by John Mayer. The band paid tribute to Pigpen with “Big Bossman,” and pictures of the man himself adorned all of the screens.
By “Ramble on Rose,” the band was beginning to show just how much fun it was for them to be on stage together. Bobby was dancing around, Mayer was jumping and smiles were beaming from the rest. “Sugaree” hit as a high point to the start of the weekend, with Mayer shining in the middle with some more than respectable soloing.
Set two opened with a succinct “Dancin’ In The Streets,” a song the Dead Co. crowd has been amping for in particular on this tour. “Help On The Way” brought with it a “Slipknot,” that manifested some of the first really improv-laden playing from the whole group, as they dug deep for a jam that was a little bit weird, and a lot of groove.
To high praise from most of Fenway, Slip emptied into “Estimated Prophet,” played well and highlighted by some shining soloing from Mayer at the midpoint. The move into “Eyes of the World,” was awkward, but the band amended with some solid, straightforward grooving, and punctuated grandly by a gorgeous, extended solo from Chimenti.
Kreutzmann and Hart have evolved the voyage known as “Drums” into a bit of a standout spectacle all on its own, equal parts bizarre and funky. The two set off with an intense, tribal-sounding attack at their drums, against an audio-looped backdrop of world music and singing, all textured with Hart’s maniacal collection of off-the-wall instruments, and the result is cosmic, new kind of soundscape, that some would label as “deadtronica.” Eventually Oteil jumped on board for the fun, pushing the segment hard for an ending that was impressive to say the least.
Its space counterpart from the band was contrastingly ethereal, a peaceful musical effort from the band before they surprised the crowd with a reprise into “Eyes of the World.” “Standing On The Moon,” was a standout if only for Weir, who sang it with a grace that crackled with emotion.
The band encored with a really well-handled “Black Muddy River,” with Mayer nailing the vocals, before closing out night one with “One More Saturday Night.”
There is no denying that night two at Fenway lifted the weekend up to a much higher level, with the band now with a very good feel, and riding a great energy for almost the entire show. Also, having the sound even better on night two, especially with Oteil’s bass much clearer and fuller in the mix, didn’t hurt at all.
The three song start off punch of “Samson and Delilah,” “Brown Eyed Women,” and “Big River” suggested this, and the latter two tunes sailed on clean yet swinging playing from all around.
“Let it Grow,” was also well done, and hit the beginning horizons of some explorative playing from the whole band. Mayer and Weir then went acoustic for the first time as Dead and Company, and started with a “Friend of the Devil” that really came together nicely about midway through. They segued into an acoustically lead “Dark Star,” that was a terrific musical treat, well-appreciated by the crowd, but left unfinished for the time being.
In the second set, to finish the weekend at Fenway Park, it was time for Dead and Company to burrow down and blaze through some of the most satisfying jams all weekend. “Truckin’” started things off admittedly a little off the rails, but with a gusto from the band, who worked their way over to land on a “Fire On The Mountain” that felt immediately full and clean. Taking his turn to sing lead on “Fire” was Oteil, to shouts of excitement and support across the Fenway crowd.
Dead and Co. plays many tunes in the songbook at a slower pace, and the “St. Stephen” coming next clocked in at about the most sluggish tempo of all. But it had a majestic feeling from the get-go, and sure enough the band carried it up into a shifting, improv-heavy jam, where Oteil and the drummers matched up terrifically as the engine behind some of the most beautiful stretch of playing all weekend.
“Space” following “Drums” also started on immediately groovy legs, for a cool intro to an instrumental, at first, reprise on “Dark Star,” which was welcomed back with open arms. The band was taking advantage of being in the zone at this time, hitting an awesome couple of tempo changes here. A few minutes of Chimenti solo improv fronted a very cool “Days Between,” on which the band stayed for a long time but managed to keep enticing with a few dramatic high points.
“Not Fade Away” came as a heater of a cap on this second set, to flare out as a final burst of great playing from all. Mayer and Oteil squared off towards the end, and lined up their aggressive blues work in fantastic sync, ending on a very high note.
So far in their 2017 tour, Dead and Company have been a little rough around the edges, and not without their moments of sliding off the rails, but the moments where it has come together, and the whole band has reached a singular stride, it has proven itself to be a ride you’re more than glad you jumped on board for. It definitely channels the original Dead essence in that sometimes witnessing the miss of a note or some intended landing is just as entertaining and amicable an experience as witnessing the truly many, many moments of musical excellence. There’s hardly ever a time on stage right now where all six of these guys aren’t having a seriously awesome time together, and it certainly translates to the music.
The band heads to SPAC in Saratoga Springs, New York tomorrow night, down to Bristow, Virginia on Wednesday, and then back up to NYC to play Citi Field on Friday.
Article by Miles Hurley
Photographed by JD Cohen
06/17/17 – Dead and Company – Fenway Park – Boston, MA
The Music Never Stopped
Cold Rain and Snow
Me and My Uncle
Ramble on Rose
Dancing in the Streets
Help on the Way ->
Estimated Prophet >
Eyes of the World ->
Drums $ ->
Eyes of the World
I Need A Miracle
Standing on the Moon >
E: Black Muddy River
E: One More Saturday Night
$ – w/ bass intro from Oteil
06/18/17 – Dead and Company – Fenway Park – Boston, MA
Sampson and Delilah
Brown Eyed Women
Let it Grow
Friend of the Devil* ->
Dark Star* ->
Fire on the Mountain
St. Stephen ->
Days Between# >
Not Fade Away
E: Brokedown Palace
* – Mayer and Weir playing acoustic
# – w/ Chimenti piano intro jam
Photo Gallery – Night 1 and 2 – JD Cohen Photography