From Queens to Saratoga to Hartford, Enjoying the Ride!
Dead & Company is the latest rendition of the Grateful Dead put together by surviving member, Bob Weir. In years past accomplished musicians such as Jimmy Herring, Warren Haynes and Trey Anastasio sat in place of the late lead guitarist and vocalist for the band, Jerry Garcia. Weeks following what were supposed to be the final 50th Anniversary Grateful Dead shows in 2015 with the surviving members Weir, Mickey Hart, Billy Kreutzmann and Phil Lesch, Weir put together Dead & Co.
Dead & Co. is an interesting blend of accomplished musicians and it shows. Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesch is the only surviving member of the band not to be in Dead & Co. Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge was recruited by Weir and brings a funky jazz rock sound and a beautiful singing voice to the band. However, the guy that brings the most new sound is pop star John Mayer. He is an amazing blues rock lead guitar player with an outstanding voice that lends genuine heart to the music. For a seasoned old "Deadhead", his respect for the music is admirable. In five plus years of touring with Dead & Co., Mayer has not played one of his songs with his new band.
I saw the Grateful Dead for the first time in May of 1980 at the Nassau Coliseum. I was a teenager. I went to the first two nights of the three show residence at my home venue. I grew a few miles from the Coliseum, so I, nor my parents, thought anything of me going to the Coliseum with my friends. We did it all of the time for the Islanders and a multitude of other events.
The Dead wasn't my first concert. I had seen The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band, Billy Joel at free concerts that one of my siblings or neighbors had brought me to. I grew up in a family that loved music, so I was always in when it came to seeing live music. The other concerts were good. I still try go to see my fellow Long Islander Billy Joel whenever possible, but nothing connected with me like the Grateful Dead.
People can say whatever they want about the Grateful Dead and their followers. I say, to each their own. I loved the music and the lyrics from day one when my friend Dave introduced me to Jerry & the boys. I love live music. This was a band that basically focused on live music. Sold.
The Dead was an easy band to follow with my friends. We knew each other from high school athletics and were rabid sports fans. The Grateful Dead played scores of shows every year. They played a different set list of songs every night. The band was a very subjective discussion for a bunch of crazy sports fans. Setlist discussions fit right in. Plus the music didn't require that you fix your hair, dress up or be a really good dancer to fit in. Check. That was us to a tee, maybe still is in some ways.
I saw the Grateful Dead every year at least once from 1980 to 1995 when Jerry Garcia died. Some of those years logging as many as a dozen or so shows in locations throughout the east coast. After Garcia, I always made a point of checking out whatever rendition of the band was performing. I liked a lot of them and they were fun but nothing really clicked for me until Dead & Co. I liked John Mayer but really didn't listen to him. He has been an outstanding addition to this band. They are really fun. Some say the music has slowed down. After 41 years of seeing the band, so have I.
I went to 3 Dead & Co. shows over the past 3 weeks. The first show was August 20th at Citi Field with the same guys that I went to that first show with back in 1980. Some of same original concert going group couldn't be there. However, we all get there when we can.
A little more than a week ago, John Mayer, Bob Weir and the rest of the band took to Saratoga Performing Arts Center for a sold out show. I attended to that performance with an old friend from my college athletics days. It was an awesome show. The band always seems to play well in Saratoga. Then my wife and I, who we went to our first shows together in 1982 when were just out of high school, took the two hour trip to the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, CT for a Sunday night show. Deadheads say "Don't miss a Sunday night show." They did not disappoint. They played a setlist for the ages that evening.
People say why would you go to see the same band play the same music so many times, even if they play different songs? Old Deadheads ask me why I would go see Bob Weir play with his drummers (Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart), a Pop Star (John Mayer) and a cover band (I guess that is Allman Brother Oteil Burbridge and long time Dead member Jeff Chimenti)?
My answer? Grateful Dead music is special to me and many others. To watch world class musicians perform it with the same passion and love that you have for it, that is special too. People have been listening to Beethoven for hundreds of years. If that isn't good enough, then you have to say, "to each their own." In the words of lyricist John Perry Barlow, "at least I'm enjoying the ride." Hope to see you at a show someday!