For the second of two shows at Madison Square Garden, Dead & Company — featuring Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, along with John Mayer on guitar, Oteil Burbridge on bass and Jeff Chimenti on keys — returned invigorated. The reviews were in, the cobwebs had been shaken and all was well in Deadhead-land as a dude-heavy crowd filled the arena to capacity.
The welcome, thanks to another stellar set list, came as enthusiastically as the previous night’s show, which is saying a lot considering that was a Saturday and Halloween. But isn’t that just like the Dead shows of yore to surprise and thrill you on a Sunday? Below, Billboard‘s take on the six most awesome moments.
1. Good times: “Bertha” into “Sugaree”
Talk about feeling Mayer’s soul. Taking lead vocal duties on these two classics — the bouncing “Bertha” and fan favorite “Sugaree” — you could tell that Mayer was enjoying himself. And it’s no wonder: “Sugaree” showcased his voice more than any other song over the course of the first nights and his delivery was spot-on. All in all, the one-two punch cast a collective smile on the room.
2. Bob Weir’s ballad power
Ballads like “Morning Dew” and “He’s Gone” were always sweet spots for Jerry Garcia, and Bob Weir, too, has homed in on what made those slow movers so special. To wit: his delivery on “Wharf Rat,” which guided the crowd deep into the song’s winding story, feeling the pain and sharing the sorrow of August West.
3. Jam on: “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire on the Mountain”
A combination that never fails, you feel MSG quake slightly from the arena’s sudden burst of energy. As the Dead & Company shows have proven, the band took its time and stretched out the jams between verses, without ever losing focus or direction. Weir’s vocals on “Fire on the Mountain,” a song that’s not part of his vocal repertoire, thus brand-new to most in the room, had strength and conviction, complemented by another round of stellar playing by Mayer.
4. Weir’s T-shirt tribute to Jerry Garcia
Weir was brazen enough to wear a “Let Trey Sing” shirt at Fare Thee Well’s final show in Chicago, showing he had a sense of humor — and perhaps some empathy — with the Dead- and Phishheads who cried for more than a touch of Trey Anastasio, but at this more mellow Sunday bow, it was all about remembering his longtime friend Jerry, who died 20 years ago.
5. FOTD FTW
If anyone in the Garden doubted Mayer’s sincerity in taking on this Dead & Company gig, his vocals on the intense storybook tune “Friend of the Devil,” coupled with the lush harmonies, put all skepticism to rest.
6. The “Ripple” effect
?The perfect send-off song for a New York City crowd, the folks-y “Ripple” put a pretty bow on two fantastic nights of music. It also featured a commanding Mayer playing a melody that was once a mandolin lead. Garcia had long talked about the band’s love for the Garden and how they would feed off its energy. How nice to have the same experience decades later.