As Dead & Company continue their fourth summer tour, they stopped at NYC’s Citi Field for a single Sunday show, which would end up being memorable for a multitude of reasons. Most prominently is the fact that John Mayer played Jerry Garcia’s Wolf guitar for the entirety of the show.
The concert started off with the band taking the stage and the giant side-stage screens focusing on the cartoon wolf emblem on the body of the guitar. Many folks cheered as this special occasion took place, and as the opening notes of “St. Stephen” rang through the stadium, the entire place erupted with applause.
Of course, for many, the day started much earlier than the moment Wolf made a rare, open-air appearance. The scene at shakedown was vibrant full of vendors slanging classic Grateful Dead shirts, newer streetwear-influenced designs, food, beers, and whatever else you’d reasonably want in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert. Smiles, hugs and high-fives were exchanged as the tailgate experience went on through the sunny, basically-perfect afternoon. As the ~40,000 fans made their way into the stadium, it was super apparent that the culture is as much of a draw as the band itself.
But nevertheless, no moment as joyous as the ringing of St. Stephen’s riff echoing around a near-capacity Citi Field. It would start a show full of popular songs, engaging improv and a small handful of absolutely monstrous Mayer solos played out on Jerry Garcia’s faithful guitar.
First set included “High Time”, a song debuted by Dead & Company earlier this tour, “Ramble on Rose”, “Sugaree” – which included one of those monstrous Mayer solos – and a driving “Jack Straw” to close it out. As the sun set over Manhattan, those at the top of the stadium were treated to breath-taking views while the rest of the stadium boogied their bones.
Second set started with a wonderfully-executed “Terrapin Station” before blasting straight into “Althea”. That song has become Mayer’s signature Grateful Dead tune, a track that he can engage with lyrically and musically while delivering – you guessed it – a monstrous solo. Bob Weir, who is looking more and more like Hulk Hogan as the tour goes on, took the lead on a snappy “Scarlet Begonias” which segued patiently into “Fire on the Mountain”. Unfortunately, as the jam in “Fire” really got burnin’, the sound cut out for a solid minute or three. The band continued to jam and even had the entire stadium singing “fire, fire on the mountain” to the inaudible instrumental supplied by the band playing with no PA. While it was a bit of a dampener, it was pretty awesome to see the band truck through sound problems with smiles on their faces.
Drums/Space followed shortly after the sound kicked back on, and honestly it was one of the highlights of the show. Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Oteil Burbridge just belted out these absolutely wonderful rhythms, which seemed to have some trancey dancey influence, and it was just gorgeous…a fine, fine change of pace from the rest of the show, which did favor slower-paced songs. I said to a friend, not-so-jokingly, that we might be in the best era ever for drums/space. I stand by that…
Once the rest of the band came back on, they went into “The Wheel”, but only after multiple teases. They’d also tease quite a bit as “The Other One” got cookin’, but would eventually settle into both that and an absolutely scorching “Morning Dew”. Mayer delivered his third and final absolutely-beast-mode solo on that one, and it stood as maybe the high-point of the concert.
Ending just five minutes before curfew, the band scrambled to decide on not going away to come back out for the encore, instead just diving straight into “Brokedown Palace”, executing it in beautiful fashion and ending just seconds after the 11pm curfew. Pros!
Dead & Company continues to settle into their own as a wonderful, maybe the most wonderful, post-Garcia Dead band that’s existed. It was a fantastic night at Citi Field, and we can only hope they go back to doing two shows next year!
Cold Rain and Snow
Samson and Delilah
They Love Each Other
Ramble On Rose
Fire on the Mountain
The Other One