The East Coast has patiently awaited Dead & Company's arrival after feeling the disconnect from the Grateful Dead's Fare Thee Well gigs at Solider Field and Levi's Stadium this summer. The freshly crafted Dead & Company lineup, including the talents of "Core Four" members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman along with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti, made Madison Square Garden erupt with excitement over their 2-night jaunt in New York City.
Their opening Halloween gig at the Garden had a lot weighing on its execution. Although Dead & Company's inaugural gig in Albany went smoothly and garnered endless praise for Mayer's musical magic, the group was eager to perform for MSG's energetic crowd. On the very same night, Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, took on a nearby performance at Portchester's The Capitol Theatre with his own group, Phil Lesh & Friends, UltimateClassicRock notes.
The first set saw a loaded, 70s setlist with Weir and Mayer trading verses on "Brown-Eyed Women," "Deal" and 1980's "Althea." Keeping the Dead traditions alive, Weir only addressed the crowd once over a four hour time span for a brief hello and intermission announcement. Later on, "China Cat Sunflower" segued into "I Know You Rider," while Weir and Mayer swapped vocals on "Jack Straw," just as Weir and Jerry Garcia did many times prior. Staying in the Halloween spirit with a nod to Garcia, the show closed out with Warren Zeyon's "Werewolves of London," according to Rolling Stone.
For the second gig on Nov. 1, Garcia's presence filled the Garden when the audience set their eyes on Weir, who was wearing a shirt adorned with his late friend and fellow band member's face. The show launched early at 7:15 p.m., opening with the Sunday delight of "Samson & Delilah" as the first set allowed Mayer's vocals to shine on fan favorite and staple Dead tracks "Sugaree," "Bertha" and "Friend of the Devil." Weir tackled a mesmerizing "Crazy Fingers" just ahead of the set's closing track, "Uncle John's Band."
Following a 45 minute intermission, Weir led vocals on every single track in the second set, allowing Mayer to shred, guitar faces and all, during an explosive "Fire on the Mountain," "Shakedown Street," "Dark Star" and "Wharf Rat." After jamming through "Playing in the Band," "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" and a gripping performance by the rhythm and keys section, the group closed out their second MSG gig with a sing-along rendition of the folksy, American Beauty track, "Ripple," a perfect closer which saw swaying crowds and singing voices in unison.
The tour will continue Thursday as Dead & Company take on the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.