Clarkston,Michigan(June 29,2022)-The present incarnation of the legendary jam band The Grateful Dead came to town Wednesday for another in a series of their legendary concerts. Dead & Company played a rollicking show before legions of dedicated fans at the Pine Knob Amphitheatre in Clarkston, Michigan.
The Grateful Dead spin-off, started off the warm night on an epic note, tearing through a nearly 15-minute rendition of “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” moving the sea of 12,000 heavily tie-dyed Deadheads into a euphoric state while guitarist John Mayer and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti traded riffs. Another 20 minute highlight real of “Feel Like a Stranger,” with Mayer and Weir trading guitar licks simply affirmed that the night would indeed be long jam session and at times, a little crazy.
Actually, two hours and thirty minutes of a good crazy with a thirty minute intermission that allowed fans to refuel for what could very well be the last Dead show in Michigan. Either way you care to measure, Weir set a tone early on during Dead & Company’s performance, launching into a declarative tone that “It’s gonna be a long, long crazy night!” and he wouldn’t be wrong.
But as all “classic” bands go, especially one that played Woodstock in 1969, the current tour came mixed with a little drama. Founding Grateful Dead member Bill Kreutzmann has been playing only portions of each show during the tour due to health reasons. Jay Lane, his fill-in, was behind the kit for the start of Wednesday’s show and stayed there most of the night, with Kreutzmann joining for the “Drums,” solo. After a hug from Lane and a well deserved ovation from the Pine Knob crowd, Kreutzmann strapped in his familiar spot and remained there for the duration of the set. Lane filled in admirably tonight as he has throughout the tour, providing a energetic rhythm for the band to follow alongside stalwart Mickey Hart
Dead and Company’s first set offered more of those of deep cuts that the seasoned fans long for, including the Cannon Jug Stompers’ “Minglewood Blues” (which included a bit of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel)” and Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” as well as album track favorite “China Doll,” sung by bassist Oteil Burbridge. A cover of the Grateful Dead’s patriarch Jerry Garcia’s “Bird Song” closed the opening portion of the show that featured some mesmerizing cross play between Mayer and Chimenti, which ironically, they picked right back up after the intermission during another lengthy play through on “Here Comes Sunshine.”
The show was delectably smooth, and throughout the night Dead & Company gave its mature but exuberant fan community what now has become the next best thing to the actual Grateful Dead. Channeling the band’s joyful, anything-goes spirit across 20 selections from a catalog that stretched back 55 years. Yes 55 years — at one point reaching back to the Dead’s 1967 debut album with its psychedelic interpretation of “Cold Rain and Snow,” sung by Mayer.
But as memorable as the first segment of the night was, that was just the warm-up for the show’s long, strange psychedelic musical journey. That non-stop time capsule began with Weir’s “Playing in the Band” leading into the Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band,” which grew a bit into “Supplication,” by Weir’s Kingfish (for reportedly the first time ever by Dead & Company). By now it appeared every barefoot Dead Head in the venue was dancing freely in which ever space they were occupying and they were rewarded handsomely with the much-loved pairing of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider.” Mayer and Chimenti continued to provide the instrumental fireworks, particularly during a bluesy jam interlude that bridged the first two songs of the segment.
Dead & Company followed “Drums” and its sonic sibling “Space” by winding John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” into an haunting performance of “Wharf Rat,” followed by a romp through a pre-holiday “U.S. Blues.” that was kind of light-hearted wake-up from the heady musicality Dead & Company had explored for the previous 90 minutes. The lone encore for the entertaining mid-week interlude, the much-loved “Ripple,” was an acoustic-flavored icing on the cake shall we say, not quite a lullaby but certainly a comforting salvo to send the crowd off in a soothing fashion.
As everyone who has followed the six decade career of the Grateful Dead and Dead and Company knows, their legion of fans are known as Deadheads. Of course, they can’t get enough of Dead & Company, and with good reason. They continue to follow the band like groupies of the past but now with a little more social status and credibility than in earlier times. Unfortuneatly for them along with the more casual fans, the trade winds that propel the band have carried some alarming news about their beloved saviors. There have been murmurs (since denied) that the group is planning to pack it in soon. That may or may not be true but when Dead and Company walked off the Pine Knob stage on Wednesday to the thunderous ovation of the packed venue, all was well in Deadhead world, maybe for the last time in the Motor City.