From the parking lot to the stage at New York’s Citi Field on Saturday night, there was a sense of continuity. As Deadheads arrived for the first show of a two-night Dead & Company swing at the Mets baseball stadium, tents were pitched to the left of the subway entrance. Rather then walk straight to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, many fans veered over to what is commonly know as Shakedown Street, a hippie bazaar filled with paraphernalia, trinkets, beverages, $2 grilled cheese sandwiches and, if you listened hard enough, the tell-tale sounds of nitrous balloons being inflated.
Inside, sensing the nostalgia for kinder times, Dead & Company opened with the bouncy disco number from 1978, “Shakedown Street,” which had the crowd of 45,000 on their feet. This incarnation of the Grateful Dead features pop idol John Mayer trying to do his best Jerry Garcia imitation on guitar and vocals. He doesn’t sing a lot of leads (just four songs on this night, including “Sugareee” and “Althea”), leaving most of the duties to the bearded warhorse, Bob Weir, who growled his way through a first set that included “Jack Straw,” “Loose Lucy” and “Ramble on Rose.”
Second set opener “Dark Star” was a surprise for a number of reasons. First, the Dead rarely opened with the 1968 favorite, which was released as a single but never on a studio album; it usually would appear in the middle to end of the second set during the group’s spacey improvisations, or often just “teased.” This made “Dark Star” the holy grail of all Dead songs, since it was rarely played live. For instance, in 1971, they only did it 12 times, but more recently it’s become a concert staple at Phil Lesh and Friends and Bob Weir and Ratdog shows. In 2015, it was played 35 times.
This turned out to be the highlight of the night. A sturdy “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire on the Mountain followed. After 10 minutes of propulsive drumming by Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, the band steered into another ’60s classic, “The Other One” (which, tellingly, is the name of 2014 documentary about Bob Weir and is technically know as “That’s It for the Other One”).
The evening crescendoed predictably during the “One More Saturday” encore. It was played 38 times in 2015.
Dead & Company setlist at Citi Field (June 25, 2016)
Ramble On Rose
Friend of the Devil
Fire on the Mountain
The Other One
One More Saturday Night