–by Randy Thompson
–photos by Laura Tucker/Laura Tucker Photography
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A DEAD CONCERT!
Bob Weir and Mickey Hart have been playing music together since 1967 in one version or another of the Grateful Dead. On Wednesday night, their latest incarnation, Dead and Company, played their last show together in St. Louis at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre.
It has been a long, strange trip, and the crowd of fans, both young and old, gathered to pay homage. It was not a sad and forlorn gathering, however. Instead, it was the last chance to hear Bob Weir (guitar), and Mickey Hart (drums), along with John Mayer (guitar), Oteil Burbridge (bass guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboard) and Jay Lane (sitting in on drums for Bill Kreutzmann who is sitting out the 2023 tour).
The band came out rocking with “Good Times” and the crowd got on their feet and never sat down again as the songs filled the air and good times did roll. Dead and Company came out to play, and there was no pandering to the audience, no holding out mics to encourage singalongs from the crowd, and no maudlin farewell speeches. They were simply and truly, enjoying the ride.
What the band provided was exactly what the audience came for, classic Grateful Dead jams like “Eyes of the World”, reworkings of blues classics like “Big Railroad Blues”, and good old rock and roll like “Johnny B Good”. John Mayer plays with intensity, has great guitar skills, and a true love for the music that they play. Bobby’s voice is as strong as it ever was. He can wail, growl, and deliver a heartfelt song like “The Eleven”, all equally well.
Jeff and Oteil shone throughout the concert, and each had their moments when they stepped up and delivered amazing solo work. Oteil sang “Fire on The Mountain” playing with heart and undeniable skill.
There were the amazing drummers, Jay and Mickey keeping the band tightly connected and providing a driving beat. And of course, one of the highlights of every Dead concert is “Drums/Space”. Oteil even joined the two drummers briefly. Their drumming, and the intensity of their work sent vibrations throughout the pavilion. We could feel the music going through us. Mickey is known as an innovative and experimental drummer who utilized different instruments to go along with his drumming, including a violin bow.
There were, of course, incredible artworks on the screen behind them and a vibrant lightshow. Colorful visuals and amazing technical work that illuminated the band members in neon colors while the band jammed through the night weaving the individual instruments seamlessly from song to song.
They came out for one encore, an amazing version of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”.
And although we all had the understanding when they gathered on stage to take a final bow, that we would not see this group together again, we did not feel sadness in the air, just pure joy at having experienced an amazing performance with iconic musicians. All we could do was smile, smile, smile.
Dead and Company Setlist:
Friend of the Devil
They Love Each Other
Black Throated Wind
Big Railroad Blues
Johnny B Good
Eyes of the World
Fire on the Mountain
Death Don’t Have No Mercy
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
Knocking On Heaven’s Door