I’m not a Deadhead, nor am I a born-again hippie, but I did attend a Dead & Company concert in New York on June 22nd and was thrilled.
This piece is sort of a review but more of a commentary after I attended this session only two weeks post-operative for a knee replacement! Of course, family members viewed this with great hilarity coupled with many interrogatives. After all, I deny that I am a Deadhead though I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the Summer of Love and all that. Even attending some concerts at the Fillmore or open-air concerts at the Marina Green. Urged on by some fellow social activists six months ago, I agreed to join them and laid down my funds for a ticket. And I have to confess that I do listen to the music of the Grateful Dead periodically on YouTube.com, and I had gotten used to visiting a chiropractor who played the Dead’s music in his office. But there has to be a first time!
With a handy cane and adequately administered painkillers, I hobbled solo to and boarded an MTA Long Island Rail Road commuter train to Mets-Willets Point stop, just shy of the Flushing stop. Aside from the regular commuters going back to Flushing and Long Island, the cars were jammed with older overweight white dudes and dudettes decked out in their Dead tees or tie-dye shirts. Many did NOT have long hair. On the train, it was standing room only, let alone weird. But no one was smoking on board. I secured a seat with a 54-year-old dude who saw me struggling with a cane and wearing a Miles Davis tee shirt and offered me an aisle seat. Today would be his second round as he had already attended the Dead & Company concert the evening earlier and at the exact location. He was hoping for another great evening as he pointed out across the aisle someone from Belgian who had also attended the concert the evening before. Hmmm, obviously I was being introduced to the Deadhead universe.
John Mayer and Bob Weir.
Arriving at Mets-Willets Point station, I just followed the crowd to Citi Field, which is the home stadium of the New York Mets. On this early evening, it was bustling with all kinds of folks, and many with dogs tagging along. Buskers were also staked out.
Where did all these overaged hippies come from? The lower section of the expansive parking lot was designated “Shakedown Street” where there were many vendors selling Deadware. In the main area outside of the stadium floor where one will find the Tom Seaver statue, it was jammed with people, most older, but also some peeps in their forties and younger floating around looking out for friends and whatnot. I sat on a stone bench waiting for my comrades while older white and Latina women smoked dope.
For the uninitiated, Dead and Company is composed of some veterans of the original Grateful Dead (Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann) who stuck around to continue and further the legacy of the Dead after the death of Jerry Garcia. In 2015 it was announced that songwriter, vocalist-guitarist John Mayer (you know, the former boyfriend of Taylor Swift) was joining the lineup. Mayer’s induction with the Dead and Company seems to be a significant artistic addition, enjoying Mayer’s very competent blues-infused guitar work. He puts to rest many who questioned his addition to the lineup as a probable Jerry Garcia stand-in. Other members of this formation included bassist Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti on keyboards. It is reported that drummer Bill Kreutzmann had declined to join the lineup for this final tour and was replaced by Jay Lane.
The June 22 concert was held in two sets. The first set took flight mainly of Grateful Dead covers with “Feel Like A Stranger” and “Franklin’s Tower” and covers of “Mama Tried” (Merle Haggard), “Dear Mr. Fantasy” (Traffic), and “Hey Jude” (The Beatles). While we were in the nosebleeds, the attention to the quality of sound production was excellent. It is reported that 42,000 peeps were in attendance that evening. Mayer shared many of the lead vocals along with Dead veteran Bob Weir.
The second set got more interesting as it began with Dead favorites “Scarlet Begonias” and glided right into one of my favorite Dead tunes, “Fire On The Mountain'' (lead vocals by bassist Oteil Burbridge). I wasn’t disappointed. A cover of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” followed, and then a cover of “Cumberland Blues'' before the band launched into Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” This set up the evening’s extended finale of the trusty Dead standby, “Morning Dew” (the video of that live performance
). Truth be told, I’ve played this video performance several, several times!
This summer’s Dead and Company 2023 concert series is deemed The Final Tour with its final date set for July 16 at Oracle Park, the Giants’ stadium in the South of Market section of San Francisco.
Epilogue: I had a great time and upgraded my appreciation of the Grateful Dead’s inventory. Watching the crowd around me, and particularly in awe of the multi-square foot moshpit in front of the stage which filled up with a huge body of swaying humanity who paid extra to stand up and to be there. I struggled and still tried to wrap my head around what is the musical secret to the Dead’s lasting appeal and its dedicated Deadhead fan base. Maybe another time...