Photo by Katie Friesema
Last night, Dead & Company made their grand return to the stage. The six-piece – Bobby Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, John Mayer, Jeff Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge – opened up their summer tour at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The ensemble dug into two sets of music that touched on a sliver of the Grateful Dead’s vast catalog of music. The troupe performed a peppering of best-loved ditties as well as some deeper cuts with the debuts of Traffic’s superlative number, “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude Reprise,” both of which were covered with some frequency as a pairing during the Grateful Dead’s decades-long career.
Saturday night’s show got underway with Sam Cooke’s seminal 1964 track, “Good Times Roll,” with Mayer, Weir and Chimenti sharing vocals on the cherished tune. Prior to his untimely passing, Brent Mydland carried the lyrics on last night’s opening number, though it had been somewhat forgotten until a setlist return by Dead & Company at Citi Field in 2021. For the second song of the night, they hit a home run on “Playing in the Band,” which initially appeared on Weir’s debut solo album, Ace, in 1972, and went on to become a Grateful Dead standard.
“Playing in the Band” segued into a take on “Feel Like a Stranger,” with Weir leading the vocals on the Go to Heaven tune, which proved the band was setting things up to be a “Long, long, crazy, crazy night.” Then, they slowed it down on “China Doll,” a soft number synonymous with Jerry Garcia’s impassioned vocals, which Burbridge carried out with aplomb. Next, the group turned up the heat on a hip-shaking “Brown-Eyed Woman,” with Mayer holding down the storied lyrics. “Jackstraw” came next, before the first set was capped with “Casey Jones.”
After the set break, Dead & Company returned to the stage to deliver the second half of their tour opener, which began with another taste of Go to Heaven on “Althea.” The ensemble followed with a Weir-led “Scarlet Begonias” ahead of a classic pairing of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider,” two tunes that were coupled long ago and never left each other’s side. A piece of 1978’s Shakedown Street was performed next when the band landed on “Fire on the Mountain,” which prefaced a mystic exploration of rhythm during Kreutzmann and Hart’s shared “Drums” segment, which included a Burbridge sit-in. Then, Hart took over the groove during “Space,” applying the spirit of Plant Drum to his vehement delivery.
Dead & Company followed up with the debut of Traffic’s 1967 track, “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” – while individually the original members of the Grateful Dead had performed the epic tune, it was the first time this specific lineup of musicians had played it together– Weir last carried out the impassioned rock ballad on Jan. 20, 2014, Kreutzmann mused the song just last year, while it was the first time since Hart had dusted off the number since 2009. The Traffic classic was led by Mayer and Weir, who held down the ambitious track from start to finish.
Another ensemble first came next, when the band played The Beatles’ “Hey Jude Reprise,” a song typically led by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan during his tenure with the Grateful Dead during the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Last night marked the first-time Hart had played on the adored classic since 1990. The revival of the Lennon/McCartney penned epic also represented the first time that Weir played the sing-along in eight years. In the past, the band had performed “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Hey Jude Reprise” in the same order the tunes appeared last night, marking a historic return to a long-forgotten paring of covers.
Next, they slowed things down on the Robert Hunter/ Garcia constructed, “Stella Blue,” which faded into focus after the night’s pair of debuts. For a fitting finale to the second set, Dead & Company returned to Ace on “One More Saturday Night.” Finally, for the first encore of summer tour, they landed on Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” another number synonymously covered by the Grateful Dead. Following last night’s show, the band will pick up where they left off on Monday, June 13, at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif., where they will perform for two nights before returning to Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., on June 17. Tickets for Dead & Company’s summer tour remain on sale and can be purchased here. For those unable to catch the action in person, livestream options are available through nugs.net.
Scroll down to see Dead & Company’s complete setlist.
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Dead & Company
Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles, Calif.
June 12, 2022
Set I: Good Times Roll, Playing in the Band > Feel Like a Stranger, China Doll, Brown-Eyed Women, Jackstraw, Casey Jones
Set II: Althea, Scarlet Begonias > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Fire on the Mountain > Drums > Space > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Hey Jude Reprise, Stella Blue, One More Saturday Night
Enc.: Werewolves of London