Dead & Company — made up of the three surviving members of The Grateful Dead, John Mayer, and a few friends — rolled into Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavilion on Monday, Oct. 11, for a jam-filled night on a brisk fall evening. The band cruised through a Dead cover set that enthralled fans and showcased the band’s longevity for songwriting. From “Scarlet Begonias” to fan favorite “Terrapin Station,” the band simply shone in all its legendary glory.
I was left the show with a few questions…
1. Who the hell does John Mayer think he is?
When John Mayer was announced as the fill-in guitarist for the long-vacant Jerry Garcia spot six years ago, fans cringed. Then the tours started and everything fell into place. Mayer was a solid fit, much to the surprise of countless Deadheads. Mayer even sounded like he found a new direction, abandoning his pop-rock foundation to explore more depth on his albums.
While Mayer once again was shining bright on stage with the Dead in Charlotte, I couldn’t help but think about his ’80s inspired latest release, “Sob Rock,” and wonder exactly who the guitarist thinks he is. Is he a sappy pop-rocker or a jam band fixture? Worth noting: Bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti are also welcome additions to the band.
2. How long can the Dead keep this up?
Singer/guitarist Bob Weir is 73. Drummer Mickey Hart is 78. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann is 75. Much like the Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper, who were also recently in town, these three members of the Grateful Dead have shown no signs of slowing down. I saw my first Dead show more than 30 years ago, when Jerry Garcia was still alive. I saw the Further Tour, The Dead and various formations. I’m OK with them still touring, but aren’t these guys getting tired?
3. What is it about “Terrapin Station?”
I’ve seen various formations of the Dead perform “Terrapin Station” live and it’s always the highlight. Always. Monday night’s version was roughly 13 minutes long. It slows and cruises, it tumbles and shouts. It gets the entire place moving and singing along and stands the test of time when it comes to the Grateful Dead catalog. Sure, there were plenty of solid songs played in Charlotte, but “Terrapin” is always the icing on the cake for some reason.
4. Do Grateful Dead fans still wear patchouli?
Yes. The answer is yes — but not nearly as much as they used to.
5. Is a Dead & Company show similar to a Dead show?
The good time vibes are still there, but maybe not as strong as they once were. There was a time, in the late ’80s/early ’90s when a Dead show was an event. Sure, Shakedown Street and the countless vendors selling goods in the parking lot is still happening, but the all-over dance party has been gone for some time. I remember going to see the Grateful Dead around 1990 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey and seeing people dancing in the aisles, dancing around the concession stands, dancing in the parking lot… It was one big, laid-back, pot-infused party with nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.
Sure, I smelled weed a couple of times on Monday night, but so much of that feel-good, otherworldly energy that permeated every event of The Grateful Dead is not quite as strong as it used to be. However, it’s still a good time and if Dead & Company rolls through town again in the near future, I’d be right back in that incredibly long traffic line waiting to get in.
Dead & Company Setlist
It Must Have Been the Roses
Looks Like Rain
Uncle John’s Band
Fire on the Mountain
New Speedway Boogie