Oteil Burbridge at Citi Field - photo by Karen Nourse
Oteil Burbridge at Citi Field - photo by Karen Nourse

Dead & Company Citi Field, Queens, NY June 24, 2017
Story by Jeff Winick Photos by Karen Nourse

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Full show audio recorded by Jeff Travitz

My friend Karen hooked me up with a GA floor ticket a few days before the show. Unfortunately this was the only show for me this tour, but well worth it as D&Co. delivered the goods.

Couple of housekeeping items: the only thing you’ll see triumphant at this baseball stadium is a rock n’ roll show (about five a year) , and if you don’t like John Mayer, I can’t change the line-up, nor do I want to.

I’m always concerned whether the Dead are still popular (I have no idea why). Last year they played two shows at this venue, and this summer only one. They filled about 95% of the ball park with only the nosebleeds on right and left side showing empty rows.  I predicted on Thursday evening after their VA set lists we’re posted online that they would open with “Dancing in the Streets,” and they did. I’m thrilled to the moon they brought back that disco guitar effect from 1977 on this song; I love it. They didn’t use that guitar effect in the 80’s when I got to see them cover this song, so it’s a real treat and Mayer weaves some very interesting solos throughout.  

Next up was “Jack Straw,” which is kind of like a double opener.  There is a great section for soloing and also for the whole band to rip it up after the phrase  “You keep us on the run” tonight that section was completely played down, while the rest of the song was fairly up- tempo.

“Here Comes Sunshine”/”Tennessee Jed”/”Cold Rain and Snow” were played very well, with Mayer singing the bookends of that trio.  As far as I’m concerned, he could have also sang “Tennessee Jed” with that southern drawl he has, although he resides in Brooklyn and was born in Connecticut.  Go figure.

The second to last song of set one was “Birdsong,” which Oteil Burbridge should be singing (Bust out the “Let Oteil Sing” t-shirts on the Jumbo-tron). Bobby took the lyrics on “Birdsong,” and can I just say Bobby shouldn’t sing too many Garcia ballads; his pacing, pauses and despairing cowboy emotive into the microphone completely mess with some of those storied masterpieces. “Saturday Night” closed the first set, and it’s great that wasn’t in the encore slot- who really likes predictability when you’re well past 150 shows?

From the YouTube channel of Matt Frazier:

Now the second set was dreamy, sun was down, cool breeze started to blow in occasionally and the effects of whatever you’ve consumed (margaritas for me) were starting to kick in. They opened the set with “Scarlet Begonias” (everyone had fingers crossed Oteil will sing “Fire on the Mountain” next, to no avail).  I was squeezing my way through 15,000 people on the floor with cocktails and water bottles trying to find my friend, who was planted somewhere within 12 feet of the only taper, so the “Scarlet Begonias” only gets a B+ here.

God bless the last Grateful Dead taper, a sign-post with semi-raised microphone stand in a sea of people and a throwback to the do-it-yourselfer!  Mayer then ripped into “Viola Lee Blues,” and I can’t name that song on command if you paid me. “Estimated Prophet” was nice, but I’m fairly certain Bobby doesn’t howl anymore like he used to, at least I don’t remember hearing it this night. Best part of the show, and possibly the tour, was Oteil Burbridge busting out “Comes a Time.”  I forgot about that song and it was one of my favorites and this is the first time I’ve heard Oteil sing. And it’s a beauty!

Another view, courtesy of the YouTube channel of Matt Frazier

Two salient points here:  1) Remember how Garcia could have such a tender moment he could magically shrink the room from 50,000 to 10 people?  Oteil accomplished that with his- dare I say- Jazz Club voicings and 2) Oteil has endured a lot of pain recently with his brother Kofi (keyboardist for Tedeschi Trucks band) recently suffering a heart attack and recovering, coupled with three notable deaths in 2017 from the Allman Brothers through Aquarium Rescue Unit, all of which Oteil played with, which made this ballad very dramatic and somber, while uplifting with “The Dreams You Still Believe.”

“Eyes of the World” was notable because a 19-year-old kid in a sombrero completely freaked out at how AWESOME the song was. Apparently, it was his first time hearing it live, and EVERYONE now knows his dad used to sing it to him. Surprisingly, the over-50 crowd within 20 feet of him were not loving him that much. “Drums” was great and both bone and muscles rattling with that time machine sound that Mickey plays on those strings. “Space” was all of 90 seconds, probably due to time constraints and I complained to my friend Karen, even before a note was played, can’t we ever have “Space” without “The Other One”?  No, we cannot. . . but they did open the song like it was being shot out of a cannon, which is always a fun ride.

“Morning Dew” graced the final position in the second set, and I’ve actually become OK with Bobby singing this, even with his weird pacings and lyrical timing. I consider it Bobby’s love note to Jerry, so nobody else can really sing it, now can they? Double encore. First up was “Touch of Grey” which was synched to a live light show on the Empire State Building with two helicopters broadcasting it back to the video screens.  Nice flawless touch, technology group! And then “Johnny B. Goode” closed the night, with the crowd and the band singing and thanking John Mayer simultaneously for all that great guitar playing.

As a side note, if you’re into nitrous this is your venue, the cops couldn’t care less. It’s almost pathetic to see a tank being wheeled around in a baby stroller. No, it actually is pathetic. All in all, Dead & Company delivered the goods on a beautiful sun-kissed day and breezy night here in the boroughs of NYC. The quality reminds me of my teenage days of wine and roses with this band back in the 1980’s. So glad I could revisit my youth. See you indoors in the fall?  I hope so!

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