After a week of intermittent thunderstorms, constant rainfall, and flooding on the surrounding roads, anxious attendees worried that Dead & Company‘s performance at Camden, NJ’s BB&T Pavilion on Thursday might be cut short due to inclement weather. However, the dark skies opened up to reveal a speckling of blue through the clearing clouds just as the band stepped to the stage at exactly 7:30 pm. The ban’s 2019 summer tour marks the third consecutive year that Dead & Co. has performed at the Camden venue.
The funky rhythm of John Barlow and Bob Weir’s “The Music Never Stopped” from 1975’s Blues for Allah kicked the night off, and was slowed down to a seductive pace with Weir coming in strong at the vocal helm. Most criticism of the band involves the slower tempos to the songs made famous by the Grateful Dead, but with such a strong ensemble, the extra space gives the talented musicians only that much more room to roam. John Mayer helped Bobby with the choral refrains as his nimble fingers danced delicately around his fretboard. The jam was loose in the elongated version, and foreshadowed a night of music that nurtured the soul and appeased even the most carnivorous Grateful Dead appetites.
As the music eventually stopped, the band jumped right into another long take on “Dancin’ in the Streets” with pianist Jeff Chimenti descending into the depths of the jam with the sound of his organ interplaying nicely with Mayer’s guitar work. Bobby then stepped to the microphone to ace a rendition of a Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia classic in “Tennesee Jed”, which got a raucous reaction from the crowd when he sang “Drink all day / Rock all night!” Chimenti’s pristine piano sounds wove intricately around Oteil Burbridge’s foot stompin’ bass to create a forlorn, Appalachian tone that the entire band rallied around. Chimenti’s piano introduced yet another Hunter/Garcia composition, “If I Had the World to Give”, as Oteil’s dulcet vocals soared majestically causing grown men to break down in tears. The song was only performed three times by the Grateful Dead with its debut at Red Rocks Amphitheater in 1978 and for the last time in Cleveland three months later.
The thumpin’ upbeat bass introduction of “Brown Eyed Women” contrasted nicely and had the entire audience singing along for the duration of the Dead fan-favorite. Mayer took the lead vocals of the Hunter/Garcia composition, but the crowd sang just as loud as his amplified voice. However, it wasn’t Mayer’s singing that did the song justice. Instead, it was his sweet guitar licks that filled in the acoustic gaps with expert pacing and casual coolness. Chimenti gets an honorable mention for his incredible piano skills that worked the song into a melodious maelstrom.
Weir retook the lead vocals for a stirring rendition of “Lost Sailor” into “Saint of Circumstance” Bobby’s vocals shone like the sun through the clouds and as the first set ended, there was a lingering sense of inspiration and hope for the second set to come.
Watch the video from Thursday’s set one openers below.
Dead & Company – “The Music Never Stopped”, “Dancing In The Street” – 6/20/2019
In traditional Grateful Dead sense, the members of the band returned to the stage to nonchalantly noodle out a “Dark Star”esque jam that was featured on the setlist as John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” As the jam wound down, bits and pieces of teases came together to eventually build into the sizzling introduction to “Truckin’”, the closing track from 1970’s American Beauty. Weir and Mayer shared vocal duties in a spirited collaboration before a wild “Estimate Prophet” took the music further down the metaphorical rabbit hole. Bobby’s vocals remained strong during the fourteen-minute performance, which also featured haunting echoes provided by Burbridge and Mayer and a heavy serving of jamming to bridge the verses.
The highlight of the evening came to existence with a “Ship of Fools” appetizer followed by an appealing entrée of “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider”. Oteil’s bass introduction to “China Cat” led to an uproarious celebratory noise not only for the song, but for what was sure to follow, and this “China > Rider” did not disappoint.
Keeping up with Grateful Dead tradition, the original drummers Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann crushed almost twenty minutes of “Drums” > “Space”. Mickey Hart’s infamous creation, known as “The Beam,” transformed the sound into an interstellar jam session with otherworldly effects and supernatural transcendence.
The other members of Dead & Co. filed back onstage to perform a politically charged take on the Weir and Barlow’s composition “Throwin’ Stones” from 1987’s In the Dark. Bobby ad libbed a quip into the ending of the standard verse with, “Money green or proletarian gray” before declaring “Cause you can buy… THE WHOLE GOD-DAMN GOVERNMENT TODAY!” and later adding “The future’s here / we are it / and we are on our own” after “History’s page will be carved in stone.”
“Black Peter” from Workingman’s Dead rounded out the second set, which resounded leisurely with Bobby on lead vocals before Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick’s co-written “Good Lovin’” ended the second half of music in lively fashion.
Watch the set two opening performance of “Truckin’” below.
Dead & Company – “Truckin’” – 6/20/2019
[Video: Dead & Company]
Dead & Co. performed “Touch of Grey” upon return for the encore, allowing the audience to dance from start to finish.
The band’s summer tour rolls onward to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Saturday, June 22nd, before following the next night at Citi Field in New York City on Sunday, June 23rd. Head to the band’s website for tickets and tour info.
Setlist: Dead & Company | BB&T Pavilion | Camden, NJ | 6/20/2019
Set One: The Music Never Stopped > Dancing In The Streets (Martha and the Vandellas cover), Row Jimmy, Tennessee Jed, If I Had The World To Give, Brown Eyed Women, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance
Set Two: Truckin’ > Estimated Prophet > Ship of Fools > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Drums > Space > Throwing Stones > Black Peter > Good Lovin’ (The Rascals cover)
Encore: Touch of Grey
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