February 27th the Amway Center in Orlando, FL had the most tye-dye shirts I’d ever seen there. Attendees in droves were already in full party mode waiting for Dead & Company to take the stage. They had been waiting two months for this show as it was originally scheduled for December 7th. That show was postponed as John Mayer fell ill on December 5th and required an emergency appendectomy. From the nearly sold-out show, you could see the fans had great respect and love for the legacy and musical talent Dead & Company provide. The band formed through a meeting between John Mayer and Bob Weir in 2015 on The Late Late Show that Mayer was guest hosting. John invited Bob onto the show for a studio performance and the two bonded right away. Later that year they formed Dead & Company. Dead & Company include Grateful Dead members Bob Weir (vocals, rhythm guitar), Mickey Hart (drums, percussion), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), and joining them are John Mayer (vocals, lead guitar), Oteil Burbridge (bass), and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards, piano).
We had a delay from their planned start time so you could tell the crowd was getting antsy. But, as soon as the lights dimmed the Amway Center exploded in cheers as Dead & Company took the stage. They went way back into the catalog of Grateful Dead material kicking it off with “St. Stephen” from the 1969 ‘Aoxomoxoa’ album. It’s a beautiful piece of what some would define as psychedelic rock with Bob Weir on vocals. Though the song is only 4 minutes plus long it felt like it went on forever as they played it. The band slipped into a nearly 20-year jump with “Hell in a Bucket” from the 1987 album ‘In the Dark’. The music is a little edgier and sounds more like a rock song than the psychedelic sound. Bob once again provided the vocals and John did an excellent job on guitars with the song showing off how well he could jam Grateful Dead music and it sounded perfect.
John finally got his chance to show off his vocals with “Next Time You See Me”. Though it appears on the 1995 album ‘Hundred Year Hall’ it was originally recorded by Junior Park in 1958. The song showed John’s love of the blues genre and suited his voice and guitar playing style. The rest of Dead & Company were grooving along with John’s lead and the crowd loved it. They did a wonderful version of “Ramble on Rose” from ‘Europe ’72’ that showed off Jeff’s piano skills and a little of his vocals too. They wrapped up their first set with “The Wheel” from the 1996 album ‘Dozin’ at the Kick’ which also included a little mix of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”.
When they returned for their second set they kicked it off with the medley “China Cat Sunflower” from the 1969 ‘Aoxomoxoa’ album and
I Know You Rider”, which the Grateful Dead have performed live for many years together. It’s a long 22-minute run where John puts out some excellent guitar riffs and Oteil lays down some great bass riffs. They followed that up with the song that made him into a Grateful Dead fan, “Althea”, from the 1980 album “Go to Heaven”. John led on vocals for the song. As they continued through their second set they finally gave Mickey and Bill to show off their stuff in the song “Drums & Space”. It’s a great improvisatorial medley of drum solos between Mickey and Bill and added in sounds from the rest of the band towards the end. The band finished up the set with “Casey Jones” from the 1970 album ‘Workingman’s Dead’ and encored with “U.S. Blues” from the 1974 album ‘From the Mars Hotel’.
There are so many wonderful things from this Dead & Company show. The band sounds amazing and still play with a passion and heart. You can see how much they appreciate the fans’ support over all these years. The light show was spectacular. I’ve probably never seen lighting used so perfectly to convey that psychedelic mood and yet still make the band visible to the fans. I was in awe of some of the lighting displays that night. And most important was the amazing love and camaraderie from the fans. People dancing on the floor, in the aisles, in their seats, and strangers singing along together who had never met. It was an overall perfect show.