Dead & Company tour continued in guitarist John Mayer‘s home state of Connecticut on Sunday night for the band’s final show of the summer in the Northeast. Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti and Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart fit a number of tour debuts into the setlist at Hartford’s Xfinity Theatre, including “Samson & Delilah,” “The Eleven,” “All Along The Watchtower” and “Werewolves Of London.”
The sextet came out with a 15-minute “Shakedown Street” featuring powerful vocals from Bobby and fretboard fireworks galore from John. Weir then delivered the “Sunday Sermon” of “Samson & Delilah” for the first time this year. Chimenti shined on “He’s Gone” as he moved between piano and organ in providing beautiful melodies on each as Mayer and Weir sang the Hunter/Garcia gem.
Dead & Company then romped through “Big Railroad Blues” ahead of the “Lost Sailor”/”Saint Of Circumstance” pairing. The transition between the dark “Sailor” and optimistic “Saint” was impactful. The band capped the frame with a “Franklin’s Tower” featuring a marvelous organ solo from Jeff Chimenti that stands among his best work of the tour. Jeff, John Mayer and Bob Weir then took it down a notch as they connected on a cool and unusual jam while their mates dropped out of the mix. Mayer sang the final verse over the slow and dreamy groove before the rest of the group came back in for a strong finish to the must-hear “Franklin’s Tower.”
Dead & Company focused on the Grateful Dead’s late-1960’s output at the start of the second set. “China Cat Sunflower” opened and the band pulled off a spot-on transition to its usual partner, “I Know You Rider.” A potent 14-minute “St. Stephen” featuring one hot blues lick after another from John Mayer followed. The sextet never went too deep, instead toying with the tempo throughout while never straying far from the “Stephen” beat. Last night was the first “St. Stephen” of 2021 to feature the “William Tell Bridge,” which bled into “The Eleven.” Weir sang his heart out on the tour debut before Mayer tore it up, propelled by Burbridge’s bubbling and groovy bass lines.
The instrumentalists departed the stage after “The Eleven,” leaving Hart and Kreutzmann to deliver a 10-minute “Drums” segment. The Rhythm Devils lived up to their nickname in Hartford by providing a wild trip filled with hypnotic beats. Burbridge joined in shortly before Mickey headed to the Beam. Hart used a violin bow to lay down a droning base for the evening’s “Space” excursion. Oteil, Bobby, and John mostly stuck to pretty major key jamming while Jeff played synth.
The improvisational highlight of the night was the jam that developed when the full band was back on the stage that eventually led into the tour’s first cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” Bobby belted out the tune as Mayer lit it up on lead guitar. Dead & Company then treated fans to an emotion-laden “Wharf Rat” sung by Weir. A big surprise followed when the sextet ended the set with “Playing In The Band Reprise” three days after they opened their first night in Mansfield, Massachusetts with “Playing In The Band.”
Dead & Company had another treat in store for the encore. The group dusted off their cover of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves In London” for the first time this year. Next up for the band is a Tuesday night show at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Livestreams are available via LiveDead.co.
Stream an audience recording of last night’s show taped by JT/NY below:
Watch pro-shot video featuring the songs that opened each set in Hartford:
Setlist (via Dead & Company Instagram)
Set One: Shakedown Street, Samson & Delilah, He’s Gone > Big Railroad Blues, Last Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Franklin’s Tower
Second Set: China Cat Rider > I Know You Rider > St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge > The Eleven > Drums/Space > All Along The Watchtower > Wharf Rat > Playing In The Band Reprise
Encore: Werewolves Of London