Review — Dead and Company Says “Fare Thee Well” to Folsom Field During Final Shows

Folsom Field — Saturday, July 1st

Bob Weir, lead singer of Dead and Company and founding member of The Grateful Dead, has been touring for 60 years. The legendary singer, songwriter, guitarist and beloved hippy-godfather is one of those rare rock legends whose legacy refused to wither under the pressure of riches, fame or drugs. He’s lived a rockstar lifestyle for well over half a century, but he’s never lost his endearing, colorful style, which was on full display at Folsom Field last weekend, where Dead and Company celebrated one of their last performances together on the final leg of their The Final Tour tour. 

Dead and Company

Joined on stage by Mickey Hart doing his thing on percussion; Oteil Burbridge working overtime on bass, percussion and vocals; Jay Lane who is taking over for longtime Dead drummer Bill Kreutzman on this tour; Jeff Chimenti on keys and John Mayer, Weir led the supergroup through a high-energy performance that reminded the audience why The Grateful Dead’s legacy has withstood the test of time: Dead and Company embodies the colorful free-spirit of the jam music world.

READ: Review — The Audible Alchemy of Dead and Company Enchants Boulder

Saturday — the first of Dead and Company’s three-night run at Folsom Field — was picture-perfect. It was the sort of summer love Jerry Garcia might have written about in “Sugar Magnolia” — sweet, patient and beautiful. Of course, the band’s performance of “Sugar Magnolia,” which seamlessly blended into “Scarlet Begonias” for a 15-minute jam session that played like the A-side of a Grateful Dead “70’s Hits” record during the band’s second set, was among the many highlights that defined the massive performance.

Dead and Company

There was little-to-no introduction before Dead and Company’s first set began with “Let the Good Times Roll,” which the crowd immediately greeted with some celebratory joints, cheers and collective singing. Even better, a rainbow welcomed the band to the stage as they jammed their way into “Truckin’” and blessed the crowd with Jerry Garcia’s smiling mugshot on the LED screens.

At 75 years old, Bob Weir’s voice has aged beautifully, showcased throughout the night on classic hits like “Truckin’,” “Shakedown Street,” and “Eyes of the World,” which featured a frantic but tasteful bass solo from Oteil Burbridge that turned the energy up a notch.

Weir wasn’t always the lead singer, though. During several songs, including “Deal,” John Mayer took over as lead vocalist. Mayer seemed careful never to draw too much attention to himself, letting Weir and the other Grateful Dead members bask in what might be one of their last shared moments on stage together before the band says farewell to the world later this summer. Say what you will about John Mayer, but his respect for his bandmates and The Grateful Dead’s idol-like reputation was a pleasant surprise, only made better by Mayer’s delightful guitar solos and subtle singing voice scattered throughout the night.

Still, the highlight of the entire performance might have been the Beatles’ classic “Hey Jude,” which prompted the entire 60,000ish crowd to chant together in unison, visibly grateful for their special shared moment with some of music’s most infamous rockers. 

Folsom Field — Monday, July 3rd

There are some shows that feel like witnessing history unfold, the weight of time hanging over the heads of the musicians and filling the hearts of all in attendance. It’s a strange feeling of magic, almost electric, as each note becomes gospel sung out in unison and cast up into the night sky so the gods can hear. This was the feeling that pervaded Dead and Company’s final show at Folsom Field on Monday, the power of over 60 years of sweet, sweet music hanging above the stadium, just waiting for anyone in that massive, chaotic, beautiful crowd to reach up and grab it, bring it to their chest and hold on forever. Dead and Company

The first set — protracted due to weather but immaculate — began with “Bertha,” setting the tone and letting the crowd know they truly were in for a special show. The band was immediately firing on all cylinders, launching into jams that allowed everyone a moment in the spotlight. They followed with “New Speedway Boogie” which then led into “Cold Rain and Snow,” much of the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. Maybe the band had been informed about Colorado’s recent string of shitty weather, but the song now feels like it was almost prescient given the weather that was to come.

Sure enough, lightning began striking out over the mountains behind the stage. It was a dramatic image as the lightning cut through the setting sun and the band moved into a “Jack Straw” that quickly gave way to a huge, heart-stirring “Althea.” This then led into a spirited “Playing in the Band” that had to be cut short due to the inclement weather.

Dead and Company

As warnings played over the loudspeakers telling everyone to leave the venue and seek shelter, the crowd took the opportunity to get to know each other instead, everyone staying firmly planted in their respective areas, hugging, joking, lighting joints and sharing the love. It felt more like an extended set break than a rain delay and served as a bit of a breather from a show that was still just getting started.

The delay lasted about half an hour, maybe a bit more, but Dead and Company swiftly returned and launched into “Uncle John’s Band,” kicking off a set that ended up feeling mythic, something whispered about by the gods as they look upon humanity with envy. They followed the song up with a huge “Help On the Way” and “Slipknot” that felt bright, like the sun finally peeking out through storm clouds.Dead and Company

The hits kept rolling as the band launched into a gorgeous “Franklin’s Tower” and “He’s Gone.” Standing in that massive sea of people during these was a uniquely beautiful experience. Love and joy hung palpably in the air as 60,000 music lovers danced and sang together, their souls now intertwined and changed forever. Dead and Company then cooled it down a bit with a patient “The Other One” which gave way to a lengthy and intricate “Drums and Space.”

As the jam got really deep, people began to notice something flying over the right side of the stage. Friends turned to each other excited and confused as 600 drones slowly swarmed in the new night sky. The drone lights flashed green, then purple, then went black before lighting up again magnificently as a glorious, red, white and blue stealie hanging in the sky. The crowd entered a delightful frenzy as they basked in the sweet glow emanating from one of the most iconic band logos in history glowing amongst the stars.

The drones eventually shifted into a giant rose and then a message saying “Please Be Kind” as “Drums and Space” ended. They then busted out a heartstring-pulling, tear-jerking “Standing on the Moon.” It’s the kind of song that sends the soul soaring up into the clouds and reminds attendees to hug their people while they still can.

Dead and Company

Then came the biggest surprise of the night: an extended sit-in from none other than Dave Matthews. He hit the stage and the early notes of his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watch Tower” rang out. His version starts slow, quiet, cautious, the calm before a great storm. The storm came as the song ended in a blaze of soaring vocals and the band absolutely ripping. The band then followed it with their reimagined version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” one of the Dead’s signature tunes and a fitting end to an incredible set.

READ: Review — Dave Matthews at Fiddler’s Green Was the Best Band Practice Ever

The wait for the encore didn’t last long, and the band, alongside Dave Matthews, returned with “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” another Dylan tune. It had the whole crowd singing, souls soaring along with the music. This was followed by a powerful, emotional version of “The Weight” by The Band. It solidified that communal spirit as it featured the band rotating singers each verse, with Matthews starting the song followed by Mayer, Weir and Burbridge.

The song came to a close, and the final notes of Dead and Company’s final show in Colorado hung lovingly in the air. The crowd poured adulation over the band as they took a final bow and left the stage. The drones then returned in the shape of the dancing bears, shifting in colors as the crowd left the stadium, never to be the same again.

All Photography by David Cohn