Rich Fury/Sphere Entertainment and Alive Coverage

Like the life cycle of a rose, with spring comes new buds and fresh growth; the same could be said for Dead & Company, who blossomed during their residency opener at Las Vegas’ state-of-the-art Sphere venue. For night one of 24 at the newly opened entertainment facility, the band delivered over three and a half hours of live music, working through only a snippet of beloved originals, 19 tunes total, from the Grateful Dead songbook, as well as akin covers adjacent to concerts and tours past. Adding to the night’s overall effect was an outstanding display of psychedelic images and art referencing band history and bringing the crowd on a sort of journey that would have left Owsley Stanley slack-jawed. 

On stage, the sextet, which features founding member Bobby Weir, late-60s arrival Mickey Hart, and fellow touring accomplices John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti, and Jay Lane, was illuminated by imagery and iconography from posters past, ticket stubs, and memorabilia, in addition to locations and equipment for which the original band is synonymous with: The Wall of Sound, an outside view of 710 Ashbury St., and of course, beloved bears, skeletons and many others that danced across the 160,000-square-foot interior screen. 

As if time had caused a slide in memory, and the digression of thousands of audiences throughout the band’s career was not a factor, “Feel Like a Stranger” served as the night’s opener while scaffolding parted to reveal the iconic San Francisco shared home of the original band, and an ensuing “Mississippi Half Step” and fitting, “Bird Song,” a tune which pays homage to the late Janis Joplin, the Dead’s Bay Area neighbor. Touching on Weir’s cowboy roots, the ensemble worked through “Me and My Uncle,” a well-adjusted cover, before “Brown-Eyed Women” and traditional “Cold Rain and Snow.” 

Before the second set’s guaranteed Hart-led “Space” segment, the band had other material on their minds, starting off with “Uncle John’s Band” before sister tunes and combined favorite, “Help on the Way” into “Slipknot!” Without pause, the group picked up fan favorite “Franklin’s Tower” before lowering the tempo and accelerating the feeling on “He’s Gone.” As is customary, Hart’s inaugural Sphere-take on the always altering “Space” commenced with the lively beats of “Drums,” conjuring the element of sounds heard throughout mankind before a journey through the cosmos. 

On the other side of the second set’s instrumental interlude, a fitting “Standing on the Moon” arrived–abiding by the locationality of their previous run-through. The tempo shifted with “St. Stephen” and continued to lift into “Hell in a Bucket” before striking another emotive turn on Bob Dylan’s original “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” which felt like a homage to the original band’s 1987 summer tour with the bard. An old news broadcast essentially functions as a break between the latter frame and what would be considered the night’s encore, an appropriately positioned “Not Fade Away.”

With night one in the books, the band will pick up their residency tonight, May 17, at Las Vegas’ Sphere. Tickets remain on sale. 

Dead & Co 

Sphere – Las Vegas 

May 16, 2024 

Set I: Feel Like a Stranger, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Jack Straw, Bird Song, Me and My Uncle, Brown-Eyed Women, Cold Rain and Snow
Set II: Uncle John’s Band, Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, He’s Gone > Drums > Space > Standing on the Moon, St. Stephen, Hell in a Bucket, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door [News broadcast of the Grateful Dead], Not Fade Away