Dead & Company | July 16, 2022 | Citi Field | New York, NY – Concert Review


Review by Shawn Perry

After experiencing the Grateful Dead, JGB, Phil & Friends, Ratdog, the Dead, Further, and the Fare Thee Well gigs in Santa Clara, I finally made it out to a Dead & Company show — on closing night of the 2022 summer tour in New York City. It’s a different scene these days; a mixture of antiquated hippies and modern-day hipsters, stretching across all generations with a good two-thirds of the audience likely too young to have seen the Grateful Dead. And according to one seasoned Deadhead with over 500 shows under his belt, there’s a lot more females. This may be largely due to guitarist John Meyer.

Subtle changes were noticeable the minute I crossed the bridge over from 114th street in Queens to Citi Field. The Grateful Dead concert-going experience more or less begins in the venue’s parking lot hours before the show. Having explored the Shakedown Streets at regular stops like Shoreline Amphitheatre and the Silver Bowl stadium in Las Vegas, I had high expectations of the Flushing Meadows home of the New York Mets. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the same.

There really was no centralized location, as vendors were scattered and seemingly tentative. Not a microbus to be found, but there were plenty of enterprising souls armed with tanks of nitrous oxide, ready to fill balloons for a small fee. Elsewhere, a roasted lamb spun on a spittle, missing chunks of meat placed on small, slider buns for those with a couple bucks and a hankering for exotic barbecue. I found a clean hot dog stand, ordered up a footlong, and kept it simple and safe.

On the other side of the elevated track that transports the 7 train to Mets-Willets Point station, most of the more legitimate booths were set up around the temporary pond that grew from the afternoon’s thunderstorm. Pickings were slim, unless you were looking for lighters, water, a bag of Doritos, or guitar picks made from old drum cymbals. After walking around in circles, I made my way into the stadium and found my seat.

From the lower level on the side, I took in the view and spotted a few familiar fixtures on the field. The taper section was filled with ambitious recorders. On each side, dancers utilized the extra space for show-long spin-a-thons. And squarely in the middle of the outfield were the truly devoted, squeezed in tight, soaking in togetherness and proximity to the stage.

It was just after 7:30 when the members of Dead and Company — featuring Grateful Dead vocalist and guitarist Bob Weir with the original group’s drummers, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, plus the aforementioned Mayer on guitar and vocals, along with former Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti — appeared and commenced with the first set. It was a slow go at first, as if they’d had a rough morning and were still waking up. It’s been widely reported the tempos aren’t quite up to scruff, and that was definitely the case with the opening “Playing In The Band.” Weir’s vocals were also a bit crusty. Fortunately, things would improve immensely as the show went on.

“Uncle John’s Band” was a step up, but the double cover of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” really brought the floor and upper reaches of the stadium alive as everyone joined in on the famous chorus: “Nah, nah, nah, nah…nah nah…Hey Jude.” Grateful Dead favorites “Ramble On Rose,” “Brown-Eyed Women” and a poignant “Jack Straw,” highlighted by a scattering of lead breaks from Mayer and Weir, followed by some of Chimenti’s sauntering keys. These songs, often relegated to second sets back in the Dead days, reverently brought the short first set to a close.

The momentum carried through over to the second set where the band broke out “Truckin’,” which, of course, chronicles the Dead’s infamous misadventures in New Orleans. As if to get the point across during the extended jam, fans were treated to Jerry Garcia’s mug shots on the big screens. Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle” kept the mood lively, as the floor erupted with movement. Through it all, one couldn’t help but notice how cool and suave Burbridge walks his bass lines — fare less bombastic than Phil Lesh.

Things started to get bizarrely interesting from here. Whenever “Scarlet Begonias” was played at Grateful Dead shows from 1977 onward, “Fire On The Mountain” followed. I’d later come to find out that Dead & Company have broken up the combo in any number of ways, and tonight was no exception when “Scarlet” was followed by “Franklin’s Tower,” itself part of another favorite triad of tunes (“Help On The Way” with the instrumental “Slipknot!” serving as the segue). It was a surprising transition that snapped into place easily.

Then it was time to reach way back into the songbook and pull out some relics from the distant past. Going to back to 1969 and the Grateful Dead’s third album, the wonderfully entitled Aoxomoxoa — the “St. Stephen” > “William Tell Bridge” > “The Eleven” trifecta is one that can’t be broken up. Dead and Company attacked the suite, lifting it to the heavens. They obediently crossed the “William Tell Bridge” before making a mad dash across another jam-packed measure. All before dissolving into a heady “Drums” > “Space” sequence where Kreutzmann and Hart were joined Jay Lane, who traveled with the band this summer as a backup for Kreutzmann.

Amidst a light rain, things really opened up with a valiant stab at Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” which allowed Mayer to unleash a flurry of notes in a very un-Dead-like manner. The crowd ate up every savory note. The wind-down into “Morning Dew” was reminiscence of my first Grateful Dead concert in Las Vegas 30 years ago. Mayer dug in deep and peeled off some mighty leads, while the rest of ensemble came together for the grand finale.

After a five-minute break, the band returned for an encore of “Deal” before reprising with “Playing in the Band” to end the night and tour. The lights came up and bows were taken. With Kreutzmann’s ongoing health issues and Weir’s ragged vocals, one has to wonder how much longer the show can go on. By the euphoric look on everyone’s faces, it’s likely, to paraphrase a Grateful Dead lyric, the music will never stop.

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