One fairly hot day in LA, Dead & Company made it even hotter with a sizzling performance of a terrific set of Grateful Dead tunes. Singer / guitarists John Mayer and Bob Weir and bassist Oteil Burbridge were in particularly fine form from the get go, and the synergy they had with the audience at Dodger Stadium ensured that they kept riding that wave all throughout the evening. Unfortunately, the evening didn’t start out as swell as it ended.
There was a distinct deficit in the organization at Dodger Stadium as large mobs tried to negotiate the box office and security lines, which weren’t so much lines as blobular groups of people gradually shuffling and nudging their ways toward their destinations. Fortunately this mess didn’t sap the spirit from the Deadheads who yearned for their fix of good tunage.
The show was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. There was no opening act. By the time Dead & Company fired up their first set with a bluesy “Playing in the Band,” at around 7:40, the stadium was about two-thirds full, with many more folks still trying to squeeze into the place. For the first number, and for a good deal of the show, Mayer and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti traded off with their solos — Chimenti was clearly having a good time, and much of the audience was into his jazzy solos.
With the band’s second number, “Bertha,” Mayer’s soloing really came alive. Next, Weir’s vocals on “Jack Straw” provided some nice resonance for the audience, particularly on the lines: “Fourth day of July / Sun so hot, clouds so low / The eagles filled the sky.” Next up was a fairly uncommon Dead & Company performance of “Big Railroad Blues” by Cannon’s Jug Stompers (which had been somewhat frequently covered by the Grateful Dead). After a mello “Peggy-O,” they played an incredible “Ramble On Rose,” which was followed by a brief pause due to technical difficulties. Weir took the opportunity to tell a joke about a duck who walked into a bar…
Next, “Cumberland Blues” featured another Chimenti jam. Closing the first set, the band started “Deal” with a nice shuffling bluesy feel, which gave way to another insane Mayer solo. Following a half hour break, the band kept the fire burning with a satisfying progression of faves: “Sugar Magnolia,” “Scarlet Begonias,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Althea,” and “Eyes of the World.” Burbridge, whose jolly dancing punctuated his bass playing throughout the evening, joined Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart for “Drums.” After “Drums” had given way to “Space,” Weir led the band through a very good “Stella Blue,” which was followed by “Sunshine Daydream.”
By this time, of course, all of the tourists left, and the devotees in the audience continued to howl and dance in bacchanalian delight. The band closed the show with two encores: “Brokedown Palace,” and the fan-fave Grateful Dead arrangement of The Crickets’ “Not Fade Away.” The band and the crowd had clearly enjoyed a very good evening, and the fans would have kept feeding the players energy on into the night, but after taking a bow, the band left the stage, the house lights went up, and the roadies started disassembling the stage — signifying that it was time to go home. The energy and spirit had prevailed once again, and as the crowd filed out of the stadium, the minor chaos which awaited them in the too-loosely-managed parking lot reminded everyone that it was time to return to reality.