Dead & Company Hold Their Own

Grateful Dead assemblage puts in four hours on Red River

Saturday night at the Erwin Center, Austin experienced its closest encounter to the Grateful Dead since the band’s appearance at Manor Downs in 1985.

New Minglewood Blues: Kreutzmann, Mayer, Weir, and Hart, 12.2.17 (Photo by John Carrico)

Dead & Company are the latest spinoff of the legendary San Francisco band, which not only paved the golden road for every jam act to follow, but also broadened the minds of a whole generation to the possibilities of American music. Dead & Co. extend that original premise.

The legacy act stars original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), and longtime member and percussionist Mickey Hart. They’re joined by former Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge, Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and the unlikely but popular guitarist John Mayer. Not only did they hold their own over a four-hour span including a 30-minute intermission, they proceeded to melt faces almost immediately.

Opener “Jack Straw” not only took every Lone Star Deadhead present by surprise, it set a calm pace for the first set. Highlights from the cautionary first half included Weir’s distinct slide on “New Minglewood Blues” and John Mayer working up some true heat on an aura-expanding version of “Ramble on Rose.” That evened out when he turned in a bland rendition of “Sugaree” to close the initial part of the show.

The second set burned white hot.

The band came out swinging with one of its finest “China Cat Sunflower”>“I Know You Rider” renditions to date. The energy in the Red River drum swelled to the highest point of the evening. If that wasn’t enough, the assemblage flew right into the duly epic “Dark Star”>“The Other One” with incredible ease and exploratory depth. Chimenti’s keys took the band into Krautrock territory at times.

Dead & Co. hit its stride on the unexpected “St. Stephen,” evoking the heyday of this beloved American band. Closer “Morning Dew,” a Jerry Garcia staple, transferred ownership to Bob Weir. In the end, all doubts about the band living up to the prized history of the Grateful Dead were dispelled.

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