Citizen’s Bank Ballpark hosted the final tour of Dead & Co on June 15 2023 in Philadelphia PA. Review and Photos by Ryan O’Malley
It was barely the Fall of 2022 and there was an announcement that shocked many Deadheads from coast to coast. Their beloved Dead and Company – a project which at the time featured 3/4 of the surviving members of The Grateful Dead – would be embarking on a Summer Tour in 2023 with a kicker: it will be their last jaunt across the country. Instantly the hype started building around the dates, at some points eerily sending flashbacks to the immense hype around 2015’s Fare Thee Well events in California and Chicago. Tickets went on sale, most venues sold out in a matter of days, and everyone was ready to send the project out in style.
Fast forward a few months, and founding member Bill Kreutzmann announces he will be missing the final tour without going in to much more detail. It’s certainly a blow, but anyone who knows the Dead’s history knows that a lineup change never really puts an end to things. Instead of scrapping the tour, Dead and Company reached out to longtime Bob Weir sidekick Jay Lane (who previously filled in for Kreutzmann on numerous shows and prior tours due to health issues) to help percussionist Mickey Hart hold down the groove for the summer tour. The tour has been going strong for a few weeks now, including a stop at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia on June 15.
Philadelphia and the Dead have a long and storied history together, with The Grateful Dead putting in memorable performances at the former JFK Stadium and The Spectrum throughout the decades. So it was no surprise that Dead and Company managed to sell out the baseball stadium in 2023. Coming on at 7:15 rhythm guitarist Bob Weir gave a polite acknowledgement to the crowd before kicking off the night with a fun “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” a cover song that gained traction with the Dead throughout the 80’s and early 90’s.
Another association between Philadelphia and the Dead involves the song “Shakedown Street.” Depending on what story you read, the song was supposedly written with loose references to The City of Brotherly Love. It was more than appropriate that Dead and Company dropped a Shakedown as part of their last visit to Philly, with guitarist John Mayer replicating Garcia’s Mutron pedal soloing during the extended ending. Mayer had a prominent role vocally during the first set including leading the outfit through an explorative “Cold Rain and Snow.”
Weir and Mayer shared vocals on “Jack Straw,” where the band found a solid tempo that was faster than previous versions but still under control so it didn’t turn into a train wreck. Since the band formed in 2015, the musicians have been learning more about each other musically with each show. Perhaps the strongest example of this is between Mayer and keyboard ace Jeff Chimenti, a 26 year veteran of Weir projects including RatDog, Furthur, and Wolf Bros. Both men are constantly watching each other to see how they can create a “call and answer” segment during certain jams. Over the last few tours that seems to happen the most during “Brown Eyed Women,” with the Philly version being no exception. Some like to call it a “bro-mance” but whatever it is, it’s quite entertaining and, more importantly, creates some damn good music.
The instantly familiar opening to the psychedelic juggernaut “Dark Star,” followed with Weir delivering the first verse only, setting up the second set for a reprise. Weir broke out the acoustic guitar for a slow but enjoyable “El Paso.” Weir is active on social media and always posts videos of him working out at various venues before show time. People can have whatever they want on the man, but watching him on stage in Philadelphia it was impossible to ignore one simple fact: at 75 years old, Bob Weir is fucking fit. Switching back to the electric guitar, Weir and Mayer shared vocals on the bluesy “Don’t Ease Me In,” which brought the rather lively first set to an energetic close.
Following a brief break, bassist Oteil Burbridge elicited a loud roar with the opening to the crowd favorite “Fire on the Mountain.” It was a welcomed surprise as a set opener especially sans its normal tagalong partner “Scarlet Begonias.” A slower but tight “New Speedway Boogie” led into another two-shot made famous by The Grateful Dead, “Estimated Prophet” and “Eyes of the World.” During “Estimated Prophet” Weir mostly stuck to singing the verses as they were on the studio album rather than prolonging the breaks in between each line, as has been his normal practice with other recent projects.
Clocking in at over 17 minutes, “Eyes of the World” was enjoyable for most of the crowd, and also featured solos from Mayer, Chimenti and Burbridge. However, “Eyes” kicked off an over 45 minute long block of mostly jamming including the longstanding tradition of the explorative “Drums” and “Space.” Lane and Hart mesh perfectly together behind their respective drums, and having Burbridge join only makes the sound even fuller. But having the improvisational parts lead into the reprise of the slower “Dark Star” might not have been the perfect choice as the energy of the crowd remained low until eventually picking back up with a fun “Cumberland Blues.”
Easily the highlight of the second set was a poignant “Standing on the Moon” which saw Weir deliver a strong vocal performance and Mayer augmenting the ending refrain with some beautiful guitar harmony over the vocals. With the crowd clapping along to the beat, a thumping “Not Fade Away” brought the second set to rousing finish. The acoustic guitars again made an appearance and most in the crowd knew that meant it was time for “Ripple,” a tender Grateful Dead chestnut that has become a favorite throughout the years because of crowd participation.
After a final bow, Dead and Company bid goodnight to a city that has helped them carry on the music of The Grateful Dead, interpret it in their own way, and deliver it to a new generation of fans. In the eight years since their debut, the band has played every sized venue from an old airplane hangar to baseball stadiums and given their music to the people. Even though the band may stop after Summer 2023, it’s clear to see the music never stops.
Man Smart, Woman Smarter (King Radio cover) (tour debut)
Cold Rain and Snow (Obray Ramsey cover)
Dark Star (verse 1) (>)
El Paso (Marty Robbins cover) (Weir on acoustic) (tour debut)
Don’t Ease Me In (Henry Thomas cover)
Fire on the Mountain (>)
New Speedway Boogie
Estimated Prophet (>)
Eyes of the World (>)
Space (> ‘Dark Star’ verse 2 >)
Cumberland Blues (>)
Standing on the Moon (>)
Not Fade Away (The Crickets cover)
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