Rumor: Dead & Co. Tour May Extend into 2016
I’d like to preface this by saying this is NOT confirmed at this point in time, but it certainly isn’t out of the question. Author of Aces Back to Back, Scott Allen, has taken to Facebook to tell Deadheads that the current Dead & Co. tour “will be extended into 2016, the band will play amphitheaters and headline major festivals in summer of ’16.” Allen has sometimes been right about Dead related rumors in the past, but not always. Again, take this for what it is worth.
One part of me concedes that John Mayer has offered some strong guitar playing to this current lineup that is Dead & Co. This whole Dead & Co. thing is what you make of it, as Nate Green reminded us in his MSG review. While this Dead & Co. tour is making a lot of folks happy and the music is fun, part of me doesn’t want this whole thing to turn into a nostalgic act.
Allen even touches on the possibility of Phil Lesh as a guest at some Dead & Co. shows in the future. We aren’t too sure about that, but we certainly won’t complain if that happens.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
With the early financial returns and critical reviews nearly all positive, the Dead & Co. tour will be extended into 2016. The band will play amphitheaters and headline major festivals in the summer of ’16.
Irving Azoff, who’s underwriting the cost of the current Dead & Co. tour, is the right person for the band to have hitched its wagon to – Azoff was named the most powerful man in the music industry by Billboard in 2012. He’s also the manager of Steely Dan, Bon Jovi and the Eagles (try buying Eagles tickets without sticker shock). Azoff was able to defray his financial risk with the Dead & Co. tour by receiving corporate sponsorship from American Express, for whom the band performed a one-off gig on November 7 at the Garden. For the concert, more than half of the tickets were given away to Deadheads and music fans, the rest to AE execs and its business partners, music and finance types, and Azoff associates.
For the past two years, Mr. Azoff has been the president and CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, a joint venture with the Madison Square Garden Company, which explains why the Garden was the site of the November 7 gig. Corporate sponsorship, even for a one-off gig, does not translate into a transgression or compromise of some “sacred moral creed” cast as scripture by Garcia and the Grateful Dead; it’s simply the “collateral damage” of doing business in the concert world these days.
For what it’s worth, corporate sponsorship can defray ticket prices and, in the case of the November 7 show, provide free ducats. Additionally, in a near-ingenious move, Azoff, the Garden and AE were able to all but completely eliminate scalping for the November 7 concert because tickets were not “electronically activated” until 4:30 p.m. that afternoon.
To say the least, Dead & Co. have meshed extremely well. It has been apparent from the start the group has a sage musical chemistry and a special blend of musicians.
And, in our opinion, they’re just warming up.
The setlists have largely been limited and the band has shied away from difficult songs such as “Cosmic Charlie.” “Cryptical Envelopment” and “The Eleven.” It is our expectation that, as Dead & Co. practice further and evolve as a unit, and Mayer gets more and more confident, familiar and comfortable with the music, the songbook will open wider and wider. Think: 20-minute versions of “Viola Lee Blues.” Additionally, songs such as “Terrapin Station” and “St. Stephen,” which the band has already played with proficiency, will evolve further and become even more powerful in performance.
John Mayer has been the obvious wild card in all of this success. To this point, his playing has been largely low-key and non-demonstrative, unless you call the “Mayer bop” being showy ! He’s focused on the music, respecting both the Strange Design that channels the music through the band and the Deadhead audience that fuels the alchemy. Eventually, Mayer will increasingly display the swagger he plays with in his other musical endeavors; like most of us, he will reach a point where he will no longer be able to control the emotional realities and physical reactions those emotions generate. This won’t be Mayer being flashy, it will just be him letting his hair down. By this time next spring and summer, the band will have had plenty of time to coalesce, rehearse, and expand the repertoire.
Bob Weir is the quiet leader of Dead & Co. He steers Mayer through difficult musical movements and has been coloring the sound with his unique, understated guitar playing. Weir is at his best when he’s working with a lead player who “gets” the tunes and understands the emotional peaks and pitches that are traversed. Mayer is still learning the catalog but he has done an admirable job of plugging into the fever and energy of the “audience-band-music” syncopation that drives the playing.
Jeff Chimenti continues to shine in his role as “star behind the scenes,” the player who never misses a fill or flourish, who knows when to add something and, like an intelligent caddie, when to say nothing. Chimenti’s understanding of the Grateful Dead’s music is the result of a decade-plus of experience in Dead off-shoot bands and his phenomenal skill set. Jeff hasn’t been adding as much background harmony as he did in some of the other Dead-related bands he has graced because Dead & Co. have a quartet of able vocalists.
Billy seems contented, playing with great focus and rhythm, yet having a blast onstage. With old age comes wisdom. Kreutzmann is merely living in the moment and, show to show, enjoying the ride. Mickey, on the other hand, is draining himself nightly, drowning in the adoration of the audience and in the love he has for the music and percussion, hellbent on using every type of percussive instrument and technology imaginable to augment the sound.
It’s a great time to be a Deadhead and a music fan. Phil just completed six wonderful nights at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, and we were able to catch one gig each weekend. When you’re seeing guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan and living musical legend David Nelson on consecutive weekends, life in Dead World is grand. Stanley doesn’t yet have the music imprinted in his DNA, but when he is given opportunities to shine – instrumental takes on “Little Wing” and “Greensleeves” and solos in the “China” > “Rider” bridge – his playing is both singular and jaw-dropping.
Hearing David Nelson sing “Panama Red” and Dylan’s “This Wheel’s on Fire” is akin to watching Ted Williams at bat. History in the making. In 1962, Garcia and Robert Hunter joined the Hart Valley Drifters, which already featured Nelson. Garcia and Hunter then formed the Black Mountain Boys in ’62 with Nelson.
Phil was scheduled to guest with his son, Grahame Lesh, and his band, Midnight North, at Garcia’s following his Cap gig on November 5 but was not feeling well enough to do so, pushing his guest spot with Midnight North to the following evening. We are hearing the Capitol will be announcing a series of Phil and Friends shows scheduled for April, 2016. Despite that, we expect to see less and less of Phil as he attends to his health, family, and Terrapin Crossroads.
I would plan on seeing Dead & Co. headline some of the most prestigious summer festivals in ’16, such as Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Coachella, Lockn’, Gathering of the Vibes, and the newly-planned fest in Queens, NY. Because of Mayer’s huge crossover appeal, Dead & Co. will likely become the darlings of the summer festival circuit.
Good for them.
As we know, only God, Kriss Angel and Kreskin can predict the future and, even though I am none of them, I will go out on a limb and say Phil will drop in for some of the year-end Dead & Co. shows in either San Francisco or Los Angeles. There’s no chance he would join the band on a permanent basis, but I believe he will guest with them, and likely more than once, resulting in emotional and joyous reunions of the Core Four.
Reunions that won’t have a “This moment in Grateful Dead history is brought to you by our corporate sponsor (pick one: Peter Shapiro, American Express, Irving Azoff)” feel.
An on-stage blowout featuring Phil, Bobby, Billy and Mr. Hart – with Mayer, Jeff and Oteil on four-string – would be a fitting way to end the most exciting and fulfilling year in the post-Jerry history of the Dead.
The plot of a good mystery novel thickens as the suspense builds. In our magical music world, it’s a blessing to still have exciting things unfolding around us; simultaneously, some things are winding down and ending.
Like the Grateful Dead, that’s both sad and beautiful.
November 11, 2015