Although I’m way more of a Parrothead than I am a Deadhead, I was really looking forward to seeing Dead & Co., live at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center. For as long as I can remember, the Grateful Dead, and later, Dead and Company, have been coming to this venue but I had never made it to a show before. And you know what? I really enjoyed it!
The show started with “Cold Rain and Snow,” which was kind of ironic given the fact that it was beautiful summer evening. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist John Mayer (yeah, THAT John Mayer) fit right in with the rest of the band, grooving and jamming like he’d always been there. They casually and comfortably ran through a chill first set that included popular tunes such as “Iko Iko” (Sugar Boy & The Cane Cutters cover), “Sugaree,” and “Let it Grow.” All the songs, including the Grateful Dead tunes, were technically covers, since The Grateful Dead is no longer a band. But half the band (Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann) is comprised of former members, with Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti making up the other half, so it sure seemed like authentic Grateful Dead.
It was interesting to watch Dead and Company do their thing. There wasn’t a lot of energy compared to the rock & pop-punk shows I typically cover, but there was plenty of great musicianship and synergy, which are hallmarks of a successful jam band. I especially enjoyed watching bassist Oteil Burbridge on stage left – he seemed to be enjoying himself the most.
After a brief intermission, the second set began with “Fire on the Mountain.” As the sunlight waned, the music grew a little darker as well. The graphics behind the band became larger and more psychedelic, and the band seemed a bit more serious. That is, until they started into “Truckin’.” This song, which was released nearly 50 years ago, is probably the best-known Grateful Dead song. If Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann are tired of playing it, they didn’t let on, and the crowd clearly loved seeing/hearing it for the first - or 49th - time. The rest of the 11-song second set included more Grateful Dead classics, as well as a few other covers. It ended with a rendition of Henry Witter’s “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.” But apparently Dead and Company didn’t want the crowd to do that, so they came back for an encore of Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River.” The ballad, which has a strong country influence, capped off the easy-going evening on a very laid-back note.
Side note: for me, personally, a big part of the fun of Dead and Company’s concert was people-watching. Every generation and social status were represented, and of course there was a sea of tie-dye. My favorite crowd-watching moment was when a young woman in a long skirt, tank top, and flip flops carefully plucked a petal from a daisy she was carrying and presented it to one of the security guards as she passed him. It must’ve made her really happy, because she skipped away with a big smile on her face. That put a big grin on my face - maybe there really is something to the whole peace & love hippie thing.