In the midst of a performance with his new group, Dead and Company, founding rhythm guitarist Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead had an out-of-body experience.
“I looked over at John [Mayer], and it was 20 years later,” Weir said about his vision. “And John was almost fully gray … Looked back at the drummers, and it was a couple of new guys, younger guys, doing a great job. I looked back at the back of my head, and it was some kid in his twenties, delivering with fire and aplomb.” The recent tour of Dead and Company shows mirrors Weir’s premonition – no matter who’s playing, the music and spirit of the Grateful Dead will live on long past its original members.
After more than a half century of jamming, trucking and mind-bending, three of the legendary group’s founding members continue to travel the country, bringing their unique live experience to ancient Deadheads and new generations of fans alike. Original guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann join John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti to play the Grateful Dead’s music as it’s meant to be heard – live and surrounded by thousands of other fans creating a musical experience found nowhere else.
Despite the absence of essential figures such as Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, Dead and Company sound excellent as they continue to bring the Dead’s vast repertoire of anthemic songs and jams to a new audience. Weir’s guitar playing has only continued to ascend to cosmic heights in his age and Hart and Kreutzmann continue to hold down the rhythm as the consistent backbone to the Dead’s groove. The heavy, psychedelic jamming remains just as transcendent of an experience as it was at the Dead’s inception in the early 1960’s in Palo Alto.
Mayer, an accomplished guitar player with a singer-songwriter discography more suited to hair salons than acid-soaked hippie gatherings, would seem to be the dark horse in the equation for more purist fans. However, he respectfully and skillfully navigates the history, energy and musical philosophy of the Dead with his adept noodling and smooth vocal lead and harmony singing. As him and Weir trade licks and twist their solos into and out of one another, Mayer holds his own and emulates Garcia’s legendary and seminal style while still adding his own personal flourish, recognizable to purveyors of his more technical playing outside of his adult contemporary hits.
Dead and Company also adhere to the live traditions the Grateful Dead established during their original run. Multiple long sets punctuated by a short break, extended riffs and intros segueing different tracks and spaced out dual drum solos all keep the tour authentic to the band’s established live canon. The reverence and attention to detail present in the Dead and Company tour sets it apart from the sea of other inconsequential reunion shows that pop up every year. It’s clear that the musicians care just as much about respecting their own legacy as their fans do.
Dead and Company returned to their homeland of the Bay Area in December to perform for two nights at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. The shows sold out and were a hit among old and new fans alike, bringing the Dead’s music back into the public consciousness. After the joy that the reunion brought both the band and their fans, a summer tour was announced, including a date at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on July 30. Based on Weir’s estimated prophecy, the music will continue on far past these shows.