Dead & Company left Charlotte, North Carolina Friday night and rolled onward down I-85 southbound until ending up in Atlanta, Georgia. The heat remained in the 80s, and although Bobby wore a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts, looking extremely fit for 70 due to his fitness routine, his hair and grizzly mustache frizzled from the humidity. The other original Grateful Dead members, Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, held down the backline while John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti accompanied Weir at the front. The outdoor venue of Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood was a fine host for the music-hungry crowd with 7,000 seats and room for almost twice as many on the lawn.
Getting right down to business, Dead & Company opened with a beautiful tribute to all those ladies with flowers tucked into their curls with a blossoming “Scarlet Begonias.” Weir’s biceps weren’t the only thing looking strong as his chops and voice were in rare form from the abundant years of strength and conditioning training. As a testament to Weir’s extensive career, “The Music Never Stopped” was the perfect summary of this road-dog mentality.
Mayer took the wheel for his first lyrical spin with a take on the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballad “Alabama Getaway.” Returning to their roots, Dead & Co. executed a moving cover of Johnny Cash’s “Big River” with Weir on vocals and Chimenti sizzling on organ.
The trademark bass introduction of “West L.A. Fadeaway” was hammered home by Oteil but it was Weir once more tugging on heartstrings as the song takes a euphemistic approach to overdose, specifically John Belushi’s death at the Chateau Marmont in 1982. Mayer unleased a ripping guitar section as the music soared into the Georgian sunset.
Mayer and Weir traded vocal parts for the poetic “Tennessee Jed,” co-written by Garcia and Hunter. As an early frontrunner for highlight of the evening, Weir led the band through a soaring “Bird Song” sandwich with the celebratory “Loose Lucy” as the meat and cheese to conclude the first set. The band wove a loose jam around the circular movement, ending where they began with the melody and chorus of the heartbreaking anguish described in “Bird Song.” The first set was filled almost completely with compositions that had words by Hunter and put to music by Garcia, the only two exceptions being “Big River” and “The Music Never Stopped”.
Dead & Company – “Scarlet Begonias” – 6/29/2019
[Pro-Shot Video: Dead & Company]
Returning from set break, the band displayed their improvisational prowess by fiddling around and teasing off-the-cuff melodies before casually winding their way into Weir’s opus “The Other One”. Mayer took over for the rolling melody of “Franklin’s Tower” with a smiling, barefoot Oteil on hand to assist with supporting vocals.
Bobby stepped back up to the microphone to flex all over H & G’s “Crazy Fingers” once more showing off his wolf-like voice and facial hair while Mayer added his youthful presence to the choral refrains. Things took a turn toward heaven with a meandering introduction to a complete performance of “Terrapin Station” including the uplifting “Lady with a Fan” section. The song built slowly, weaving thread by thread, until a massive quilt was sewn together seamlessly.
After a condensed “The Other One” reprise, the Grateful Dead’s original drummers, Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, traded rhythms for “Drums” until Hart manned his self-built creation The Beam for a cosmic romp around “Space”. Mayer and his phenomenal guitar licks took control for an outstanding performance of “Althea”, the song that inspired him to research and learn more about the Grateful Dead’s history. The tune had all the key elements wrought together by iron guitar work melded together with Oteil’s bass.
The other standout highlight of the night came next with Weir leading the band through a stirring “Standing on the Moon”. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight; and it wasn’t the allergies. Weir’s loveable lyrical mishaps were not present for this killer version of Garcia & Hunter’s lyrically complex serenade. Chimenti jumped from piano to organ and back to piano to supplement Weir’s forlorn vocals, “I’m standing on the moon, but I’d rather be with you!”
Dead & Company – “Standing On The Moon” – 6/29/2019
[Video: Kenneth Kyser]
With an appropriate end to the second set, Weir led the band through a slower, yet still electrifying cover of “One More Saturday Night” with a slick piano solo from Chimenti. The rhythm pocket remained perfectly intact through the entire evening as Oteil danced like a boxer between Kreutzmann and Hart’s percussive blows.
To conclude the Atlanta show, Dead & Company returned to finish the natural second half of the opener with Oteil singing lead on the reggae, heater “Fire on the Mountain”. What an encore! “Standing on the Moon” broke people down while “One More Saturday Night” and “Fire on the Mountain” got people grooving and feeling good again. The two sets are slower in tempo than the original versions with the added space giving the uber talented musicians more room to roam and more fills to dazzle into the mix.
Dead & Company – “The Other One” – 6/29/2019
[Video: Dead & Company]
As summer tour winds down, only three shows remain for Dead & Co. On July 2nd, the band hits Dos Equis Pavilion in Dallas, Texas before playing two nights at the band-favorite venue at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado on July 5th and 6th (check out the connection between Chief Niwot and Dead & Company). With Weir looking and sounding so good, it will be hard to pass up these last shows of the summer. See y’all on Shakedown Street!
Below, you can check out a gallery of Dead & Company’s Atlanta show courtesy of Emily Butler Photography.
Set One: Scarlet Begonias, The Music Never Stopped, Alabama Getaway, Big River, West L.A. Fadeaway, Tennessee Jed, Bird Song > Loose Lucy > Bird Song
Set Two: The Other One, Franklin’s Tower, Crazy Fingers, Terrapin Station, The Other One (reprise), Drums, Space, Althea, Standing on the Moon, One More Saturday Night
Encore: Fire on the Mountain
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