For Deadheads across the country, it’s been a wonderful week to be in Colorado. Tuesday evening, Death and company kicked off the first of four Denver-area shows to be held in the Centennial State. Originally planned in just two performances at Violin green in Englewood, the band announced in mid-September that they were adding two more concerts to the famous Amphitheater of the Red Rocks. This unveiling sparked a whole new level of excitement for the Deadhead community, as it would be the band’s first performance in an intimate setting and, as expected, tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale.
Arriving around 3 a.m. the sky was overcast with temperatures in the 50’s and predicted to drop into the upper 30’s by the end of the night. Unsurprisingly, the gloomy atmosphere didn’t diminish taking part in the Shakedown scene taking place in multiple parking lots and for those who were more for business than pleasure, the lines were already well established and snaked up the stairs. in concrete with several entrances. . With the doors finally open, one could certainly feel the electricity of anticipation from future participants, embarking on the cooperative journey down the Golden Road. You could see tie-dye and smiles filling every seat and before anyone stepped on the stage, the concert of the conversation was well underway as friends and strangers shared their stories of how they ended up getting here and now.
The moment finally arrived and the lights fell on the deafening roar of the Gratefuls as the psychedelic troubadours made their way to their respective positions. Taking only a moment to adjust to their instrumentation, Bob Weir walked over to the microphone. He informed the crowd that there was a situation at hand and that he was enlisting the help of John “JohnBo” Mayer in explaining it. Mayer almost immediately said, “It’s not COVID,” to which the crowd cheered, but Weir was quick to respond, “But it’s not good.” Weir then informed the crowd that Billy (Kreutzmann) would not be joining the group due to medical issues and that the good news was that Billy was fine and would be fine. Weir, having a penchant for humor, then said the bad news was Jay Lane would be seated for the night, which drew laughs from the audience and the group, with the exception of Lane of course. With that, Weir concluded that “the show must go on,” entertaining the audience again and eliciting another round of applause.
In light of the unfortunate circumstances, the group appropriately chose back-to-back inspirations, kicking off the show with Deadhead’s anthem “Not Fade Away” moving without a break to “New Speedway Boogie.” Although we would miss Kreutzmann, this solid couple immediately got the crowd dancing and singing. The opening “Not Fade Away” rocked the place with Chimenti’s work on B-3 Leslie while Mayer and Weir took turns controlling the beat and leads. Weir also accentuated the tune with stammered vocal exaggeration, keeping smiles growing throughout the house. Lane also demonstrated early on his ability to fill the chunky shoes of the missing Kreutzmann and Hart seemed more than satisfied with his counterpart from the evening. For âNew Speedway,â Chimenti switched from organ to piano and tickled his way through the number while Mayer took on numerous solos. The end of the song also contained a long outro that rocked the whole room as the band boogied along. By the end of the ‘NFA> New Speedway’ opener, Tuesday was already more like a Friday and the party was on.
Taking it up a notch, the band got everyone dancing with an animated “Big Railroad Blues” led by Mayer. Chimenti returning to rock the Hammond and Leslie, carrying the sound and feel to the Mydland era. The band then slowed things down with an excellent rendition of “Tennessee Jed”, giving the crowd the opportunity to sing along with Weir. The great finish of the tune had twisted Mayer as he fanned his guitar in the pure form of Jerry as the rest of the group helped take the crescendo over, leaving huge smiles in the wake of bliss. Mayer and Weir alternated stanzas of “Friend of Devil” and asked everyone in the stands to participate vocally. The instrumental interlude shone with the metallic effect of Weir and perfectly counterbalanced the warm tones of Mayer’s emotional tracks. Chimenti took on an extended ragtime solo that received audible recognition. âThey Love Each Otherâ was a pleasant surprise and the band certainly pleased him. The melody was filled with interactions, improvisations and lasted just under twelve minutes. âDear Prudenceâ was certainly a star overall, being the second of two versions played on the tour. With the watery textures of Mayer, the vocal delays of Weir and Burbidge melodically filling the spaces in between, the air floated the audience on a river of sonorous, meandering joy.
The band closed the set with a rock “Don’t Ease Me In”, once again, with Weir and Mayer taking turns for the lyrics. The upbeat piece helped warm the audience ahead of the break as temperatures continued to drop. Speaking of this fact, at the end of the song, Weir repeated, âOkay, we’ll be back in a few minutes. You are all cowards and stay warm, one way or another â.
After a short intermission, the second set started with a 15-minute “Scarlet Begonias”. Although slow in tempo, the playing was safe and precise, getting everyone on their feet. The improv section showed solid performance on all fronts, encompassing a dynamic start and eventually dissolving into spatial attributes, and contained a tease “Love Supreme” by Chimenti. Rising from the fallen petals of the disintegrated opener, “Estimated Prophet” came calling. Burbidge’s bottom rocked walls and timekeepers’ toms scolded the holy ground as Mayer took the lead after the heads, while accentuating Weir’s angular momentum. While Bobby didn’t venture to the edge of the stage, he certainly showed enough rockstar to blow audiences away at the end of the midsection crescendo. The tune’s residue contained a large, minor interaction between Mayer and Chimenti in call-and-answer mode before the odd gave way to the seamless “Eyes of the World” transition. Beginning with its mellow, muted feel, this nearly 18-minute version went from calm to mountainous and walked audiences through all the soundscapes in between. The ending let Oteil shine on the upper register, unfolding long note lines as Chimenti supported him structurally. The pre-space closeness allowed Oteil to spend more time with âFire on the Mountain,â Burbidge taking the vocal role and playing the indicative bass melody that defines the melody.
The calypso inferno came to a halt and without a break the Rhythm Devils took over and upped the stakes and pace in a tribal descent that got a lot of dancing. It was great to see Lane having the opportunity to demonstrate that his abilities are not limited to the kit. The duo exchanged minutes before being joined by a broad-smirking Burbidge, who by his very appearance was just as excited to bang Lane and Hart as he does to play strings. Eventually, Hart found himself alone and turned to the beam, where he actively set out to shake the very hearts of every individual in the county. A short “Space” was filled with more harmony than discord and kept things smooth. When the timekeepers returned, the band resumed with an upbeat jam that contained some leftover âFire on the Mountainâ embers and, as the counter increased, the jam finally gave way to âTurn on Your Lovelightâ, sending the crowd in a frantic dance with hands in the air, arms on hips and hair all over the place. Father Bob certainly took the congregation to church on this version!
The opening notes of “Morning Dew” were much appreciated. This version contained a haunting lyrical reading from Weir and culminated in a grand build, with Mayer going insane and stamping his foot as viewers descended in the moment. âCasey Jonesâ ended the set with a bang, even when Hart left the stage halfway through for some unknown reason. He then took to social media to reassure everyone that he was fine, but offered no further explanation for his departure. With temperatures close to zero, the band warmed up the audience one last time with an emotional âAltheaâ that entered at ten minutes and left those who stayed with beaming faces and full hearts.
In the end, the fans were treated to three hours of good music and no one left the room unsatisfied, even in the absence of Bill Kreutzmann. The band were upbeat, unhurried and lived up to the expectations of many that this inaugural performance at Red Rocks would be magical. It is no surprise that Jay Lane was able to carry out his duties as a pinch hitter without a problem and his incorporation further showed the caliber of these players to adapt to the moment and make gold with the lead. . From a technical standpoint, the lights and sound were tuned from the start and further demonstrated that the quality of Dead isn’t just relegated to the game, but the whole experience. The rest of the nights below the Rocky Mountain skyline turned out to be equally exceptional and showed once again that in the musical world Colorado holds a special place and brings out the greatness of whatever is played.
Check out more photos from the show.