Dead & Co
A word to the wise attending night two of Dead & Co. tonight at Hollywood Bowl: Be prompt! Bobby Weir and the boys start no later than 7:15 p.m. It always takes longer than you think to park in Hollywood. They’re taking $27 from you to leave your vehicle on the hill, too.
But nobody confiscated my Jim Beam-spiked Dr. Pepper at the gate; I caught a whiff of skunky pine tree incense, and all was forgiven. I was ready to rage face with the OGs of raging face.
Experiencing set openers “Shakedown Street” and “Cold Rain and Snow” from outside the confines of the Bowl, I ambled into my first-level box seat during “Ramble On Rose.” There I was front and center, with the the green EQ lines of the soundboard dancing in plain view—sittin’ plush with a royal flush, indeed.
In Deep with Althea
The ace in the sleeve of Set I was the meticulously-composed “Althea,” a slow-strut deep cut, one of only two Garcia/Hunter contributions on the 1980 Go to Heaven album. Johnny Mayer came correct on the verses; no small feat given this tune weighs in at roughly 230 words.
A cool play might have to been to follow that up with “Alabama Getaway” as sort of a Heaven diptych; instead, Bobby took the vocal reigns for a rip-roaring “Promised Land” a Chuck Berry-penned Dead standard (same idea as ‘Getaway’). “Promised Land” was an apropos set closer that provided a nod to its author, the great rock ‘n’ roll pioneer we lost earlier in the year. There will never be another Jerry, nor shall we have another Berry—a wise remark offered by a friendly head to my left.
Here’s to you, Chris Robinson
During the break, they rolled a preview of the Amir Bar-Lev / Martin Scorsese Grateful Dead documentary set to premiere later this month on Amazon. A commercial! Sure, why not? I took that as a cue to walk over the merch table to purchase a $60 limited edition show poster. Have my money, fellas. Take it!
Let Johnny jam
With any jam band show, for me anyway, Set II is all about revelations. Here’s what I have to say about Johnny Mayer. He’s a damn good study—I’d expect nothing less from a Berklee grad. I can’t think of anyone with the combination of chops and star power to carry the weight of one Jerome John Garcia.
The difference is that Dead & Co. is very much Bobby’s band. While Mayer started in soloing where Jerry would have, his leads didn’t lead—it’s as if Mayer’s guitar excursions occur on borrowed time with this group. Remember two summers ago when they said “Let Trey Sing”? Well, “Let Johnny Jam” is the new credo for me.
Mysterious show stoppage
The band left the stage unexpectedly a few songs into Set II, after “He’s Gone.” Rumblings in audience were that bomb-sniffing dogs picked up an explosive scent; I asked LiveNation this morning for an official explanation, but have yet to get a response. Stay tuned on that.
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Update: The Dead & Co. show was stopped due to a bomb threat called in during the show, which turned up to be unfounded, according to a statement issued by LA County Parks & Rec and the LA Philharmonic today.
The band took it in stride, naturally, coming back on stage to the funky triptych “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin's Tower” a little stumble-y in the middle, but groovy enough. Bassist Oteil Burbridge massaged us from the inside out by Phil-bombing throughout the “Space” portion after free-form “Drums” part of the second set.
The revelation there is that STS9 is just “Space” played through an envelope filter. Chew on that, heads.
Melts into a dream
Bobby takes over most of the Garcia ballads in this group. As he should; the most touching slow songs in classic rock are best left to the OGs. “Stella Blue” hit me right in the feels; I took it in eyes closed and grateful.
Then it was onto the set closer, "Sugar Magnolia". Mayer, zero fucks given, bounded around in a goofy two-step that had the Relix magazine staff (seated next to me) in hysterics. For the encore, Mayer—and everyone in attendance—sang “Ripple” to close out the evening.
All the way home I sang "Ripple", too, doing my best “Your Body Is A Wonderland” Mayer impression for the lyrics. I cracked myself up joshin’ on Johnny all the way back to Corona. I dare you to try without laughing.