One More Saturday Night with Dead & Company in Atlanta July 1, 2019 14:03
Over the past fifty years, the city of Atlanta has played host to countless moments in Grateful Dead history. When looking back over the band’s illustrious career, it’s no surprise that tickets were in such high demand on Saturday night. The blazing summer heat was met with an equally hot ticket, as Dead & Company made their annual visit to Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood over the weekend. It’s always extra special returning to this venue for any Dead related project, as I experienced my first “Dead show” here on the Wave The Flag tour in 2004. While the roster has evolved and some songs might have a slightly different sound, the fact that we’re still able to gather and celebrate this music with nearly 20,000 people is truly remarkable.
When this band came together in the fall of 2015, many of us didn’t know what to think. The “Fare Thee Well” shows were a very recent memory, and I’m not sure that anyone ever expected to see John Mayer playing lead guitar alongside Bobby, Billy, and Mickey. What the Deadhead nation has witnessed since then has been nothing short of magical. The six-piece now has nearly five years under their belt, and Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti have proven to be the perfect combination for this interpretation of the Grateful Dead.
The band came out of the gate with guns blazing on Saturday night. “Scarlet Begonias” and “The Music Never Stopped” made for a beautiful pairing. “Alabama Getaway” proved to be one of the more rockin’ moments of the night. Weir has always done a phenomenal job with the Johnny Cash catalog, and “Big River” was certainly on point. It’s always a treat to hear “West LA Fadeaway,” even if D&C’s rendition is slowed down just a bit. Weir appeared the play the first few notes of “He’s Gone” before quickly aborting, switching guitars, and allowing Mayer to lead the way through a killer “Tennesee Jed.” The first set would end just as strong as it started, as “Bird Song” worked its way in and out of “Loose Lucy” before coming back in full force.
The sun was finally starting to set, and the band returned to the stage after a lengthy set break. An extended jam eventually led us to “The Other One,” which would then segue into a surprising stand alone “Franklin’s Tower.” Mayer led the band through “Crazy Fingers” in impressive fashion. Any time I’m fortunate enough to hear the “Lady with a Fan” > “Terrapin Station” combo is a very special occasion. This particular performance was perfect in every way. They eventually made their way back to “The Other One” before unleashing Hart & Kreutzmann for “Drums” > “Space.” The rest of the band returned to stage and eventually hit the opening notes of “Althea,” the song which led Mayer to discover the Dead’s music. Weir then performed one of the more coveted Garcia ballads in “Standing on the Moon,” before “One More Saturday Night” ended the set in proper fashion.
After the “Scarlet Begonias” opener, many wondered if and when we would hear “Fire on the Mountain.” Fortunately, the band returned for the encore and Burbridge finally had his chance to shine on lead vocals. Walking out of the venue, I felt that familiar since of gratitude that can only be achieved by these unique musical journeys. While I was lucky enough to stumble across the Grateful Dead’s music at a young age, it was just after the passing of Jerry Garcia. The reality that I’m able to be a part of this experience so many years later is something I'll never take for granted. These are moments that I’ll cherish for as long as I live, and hopefully, there will be many more Grateful nights to come.