Dead & Company’s summer 2018 tour swept through the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ, bringing with it the thunder, lightning and a powerful show on Saturday, June 2, despite weather-related issues.
Saturday’s threat of rain and humid conditions didn’t stop the thousands of loyal Deadheads from tailgating at surrounding parking lots where, in typical Deadhead fashion, pop-up vendors of all manner sold dreams and “weir”-icles at this iteration of The Grateful Dead tour. The blissed-out fan base was in full force, dressed in fairy wings and hemp, bell-bottoms and tie-dye, reliving, or just beginning, their love of this iconic band.
Bob Weir (vocals, rhythm guitar), founding member of The Grateful Dead, is touring with John Mayer who provides support in the “Jerry Garcia” role with vocals and lead guitar. The act tours as Dead & Company with other founding Grateful Dead members, Otiel Burbridge (six string bass guitar), Mickey Hart (drums), Bill Kreuzmann (drums) and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards). Mayer has been singing and playing with Dead & Company since it’s inception in 2015, and has great chemistry with the veteran Bob Weir. It is evident that the two accomplished musicians enjoy the guitar interplay. It is equally obvious to see that they enjoy touring together, and as fan Matthew Lewendowski joked, “This is definitely John Mayer’s most successful relationship!”
Weir and Mayer carried the night, seamlessly weaving their guitar work. As the classic dead imagery of skulls, bears and roses swirl about with a kaleidoscope effect, Mayer and Weir recreate Dead classics with a fresh and invigorating sound. Weir, 70, moves his fingers up and down the fret board effortlessly. Mayer compliments Weir. Mayer never tries to become the late, great Jerry Garcia, but his ability to play and improvise with Weir mixes well with Dead & Company and keeps the founding members firmly in the spotlight. Vocals were strong tonight and rang out over the throngs of the at-capacity crowd. Mayer shone during the Dead & Company debut of It Hurts Me Too, singing with soul and resonance.
The first set included fan favorites such as Ramble On Rose, which had the crowd up and dancing. Cumberland Blues was another huge moment, as was the excellent cover of The Weight, during which each member of the band had a featured verse to sing solo, then blended beautifully for the refrain. Other songs from the first set included Hell In A Bucket, Ship Of Fools, The Music Never Stopped and Easy Answers. Concert-goer Charlie McHugh said, “It’s impressive to watch Dead & Company get deeper into Grateful Dead’s body of work.” McHugh was also impressed with bassist Otiel Burbridge’s vocals, adding, “It’s great to hear him singing the lead on more songs.”
Intermission had fans talking and speculating over what songs would follow for the second set. During the 20-minute break, there was ample time to discuss The Grateful Dead catalog with other concert-goers. Dead & Company have to make tough song choices during each city stop. Fans go wild speculating what songs they could potentially hear live, based on posted set lists from other cities. Seeing your favorite Dead song live is a moment cherished. (This fan is still holding out hope for China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider combo someday!) The Grateful Dead have a long history of caring deeply for the fan experience and have a liberal policy on live recordings, which holds true today. There were boom microphones and recording equipment out and fans could use their ticket stub to access the concert in its entirety after the show thanks to a partnership with Dead & Company and nugs.net. Have a listen!
Set 2 started strong with Playing In The Band, sliding into Uncle John’s Band and The Other One. During Uncle John’s Band, Dead & Company hit their stride as the music flowed out over the humid evening. Dead & Company is able to keep the pace of the songs moving. The tempos may vary but the concert never felt lagging or uneven. The quality of musicianship is evident. Two massive drum kits for Hart and Kruezmann add weight and a steady driving force to the lighter, airy guitar and keyboard work of Weir, Mayer and Chimenti.
Mother nature decided to take over with her own show, and at that point, due to strong winds, lightning strikes and heavy rain, the show ended with an announcement from venue authorities. The fans, soaking wet, but twirling and dancing, sloshed through the rain and dodged lightening as they hurried back to the ferry, car, train or unicorn that brought them.
The set list has been released for the entirty of the concert, and we can only wish for them to return soon. Ryan Coll, a longtime Grateful Dead fan, lamented that Terrapin Station was on the projected list for set 2, as was Lady With A Fan, Drums/Space, Standing On The Moon and Casey Jones. The encore was slated to be One More Saturday Night. Let’s hope we get to spend another, drier, Saturday night with Dead & Company next year!