by Chris Snyder
Photos by Katie Friesema
Three shows into the tour, Dead & Company, are heating up the chilly Northeast on the Fall Tour. With two strong showings in New York City, the tour rolled into The City Of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) on Thursday evening at The Wells Fargo Center.
In classic Deadhead fashion you could see people around the venue with their finger in the air hoping to get a miracle. Shakedown Street was filled to the gills with vendors selling shirts, pins and other tour merchandise. For decades the band has been more just music but family.
As you entered the arena you could legendary names like Sir Charles Barkley (76ers) and Bobby Clarke (Flyers) names hanging by the rafters. But instead of sports heroes, on this evening, we had some musical legends hit the stage.
In contrast to the tour opener (“Shakedown Street”), the boys kicked things off with a slowed down rendition of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas number, “Dancing In The Streets.” This gave time for those running a little late to settle in for the evening grab a $13 brew or $8 slice of Lorenzo’s pizza.
The low key vibe continued when Weir and Mayer stepped to the mic for “Friend Of The Devil.” The classic tune off of American Beauty had fans young and old singing from the bottom of their hearts. The beauty of this supergroup is that you generations of folks enjoying the tunes, and bringing the joy of The Grateful Dead music to the forefront. You can see Mayer leaning on Weir’s experience as they glide through this staple tune.
An early highlight was the Weir-led rendition of “New Minglewood Blues,” adding in Philadelphia during “Well a couple of shots of whiskey, women round here start lookin’ good.” This brought the Wells Fargo Center decibel level up to a deafening roar. At this point in the evening you could tell that the band was loosening up and settling in. It was evident that Mayer is learning more every night about the history of The Grateful Dead, as he is stands closely to Weir during his solos. Ever the listener, you can feel him feed off the energy and instructions, both verbal and nonverbal, from Weir. Chimenti had some shining moments throughout the opening set, which, for me, really takes the sound to the next level.
Three shows into the tour and the sextet were feeling the music more and more each night. As the lights went down on The City Of Brotherly Love, the musicians dove into a “Dark Star” that clocked in at 28+ minutes. The extended jam gave Kreutzmann and Hart a opportunity to showcase their masterful drumming skills. Even after decades playing together, you can still hear some little nuances between the hall of fame percussionists. The true highlight came mid way through set two with a smoking version of “Deal,” which had Mayer dancing around the stage like a little kid, and then flowed nicely into an ethereal “Eyes Of The World.”
“Dear Prudence.” What else can you say? This was pure beauty, and it was great to see a singer/songwriter like Weir interpret a such a classic number.
You could see that a few days rest gave Dead & Co. time to brush up on some of the hiccups during the Madison Square Garden two night stand. “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” & “Black Muddy River” sealed the deal on a beautiful night of music in Philly.
Let’s be honest, there are going to be up and downs with any band, but it’s amazing that six musicians can get onstage night after night and bring joy to arenas throughout the country. The young buck is learning from the master about music and culture that has surrounded the Grateful Dead for decades.