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Published: 2015/12/04
by Ray Bowden

Dead & Company, 1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO- 11/24

Photo by Larry Hulst

The newly-formed Dead & Company performed a superb three-hour concert in front of a sold-out audience Tuesday night at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo.

Dead & Co might just be the first incarnation of remaining Grateful Dead members where each musician seemed truly relaxed and comfortable with their individual roles, even with a lead guitarist more than 30 years their junior.

The band opened a rocking, blues-laden first set with “Cold Rain and Snow”>”New Speedway Boogie”>”Smokestack Lightning” before taking a breath. Naysayers be warned: singer-guitarist John Mayer fits in with the Dead like a favorite pair of funky sweat socks and was more than simply able to spruce up a set-list of Grateful Dead perennials with bluesy guitar runs.

Dead & Co. stuck close to the early 70s formats of “Me and My Uncle,” Bertha” and Candyman,” save for Mayer’s extended solo in Bertha, which had audience on their feet and cheering their approval.

Bassist-vocalist Oteil Burbridge played well below the “Philzone,” skirting around the tonic like former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, but replacing Lesh’s “bombs” and jolting changes with fusion-style polyrhythms. The former Allman Brother stayed deep-in-the-pocket throughout the night, adding a smoother groove to the Grateful Dead’s catalogue than most Deadheads may be accustomed to.

Set one closed with singer-guitarist Bob Weir’s “Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance,” supported by jazzy bass runs from Burbridge.

Dead & Co opened set 2 with “Help on the Way”>Slipknot>”Franklin’s Tower,” with Mayer and Weir meshing perfectly. The duo stood close during son’s jams and instrumental breaks, spurring each other on to greater musical heights.

After Weir’s Reggae-laden “Estimated Prophet,” the band took advantage of its collective muse and opened doors to other dimensions with a magnificent 20-minute “Dark Star.” Burbridge, Mayer and Weir approached the song with a serious sense of interstellar adventure. They seemed to stray in all directions and even played outside the song’s tonic but the results were always melodious. Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti explored the pulse of the song with long filigrees that traced drummer Bill Kruetzmann and drummer-percussionist Mickey Hart’s downbeat.

Hart and Kreutzmann extended the journey with a rumbling “Drumz” segment followed by “Space.” Mayer seemed fully comfortable with the Grateful Dead mainstay of creating spontaneous music with nothing in mind except to search for and ultimately find the muse. This search was spectacular.

“Space” bled into “Black Peter.” It’s probably not often that Deadheads consider this downbeat tune a set highlight, but Weir’s emphatic singing and the band’s commanding performance during a long coda gave it the extra urgency lacking even in the most powerful performances from Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia.

The band closed the set with “Good Lovin,’” and encored with “Touch of Grey.” When the band and crowd came together to sing the chorus, “We will get by,” even the most cynical Deadhead would have believed it.

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