Dead & Co. Blazing at Wrigley with Record Setting Sold-Out Show
7/1/17 – Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL.
By Bradley Todd
When I saw Dead & Co. for two nights in Boulder in June, I thought I had caught what could be the pinnacle shows of the tour…great setlists, hot performances, big crowds in an open air football stadium, and a wonderful vibe among the faithful, which all made for two nights of Dead bliss. But then I went to Wrigley.
Dead & Co. closed out their 2017 Summer tour with two sold out shows at the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field in Chicago, drawing over 80,000 fans across both nights, setting a record for most paid tickets for a single concert at the Cubs’ home…which I am guessing was for the second show on Saturday based on how much more crowded Saturday was compared to Friday, and Friday was pretty packed!
The weather on Saturday was a perfect summer day that turned into evening, and the crowd was looooose and ready to groove when the band took the stage around 6:45 p.m. to Cold Rain & Snow. Opening song name notwithstanding, the group was already warm, and played the next few numbers (Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed and Ship of Fools>>>featuring Oteil on vocals!) at mid-tempo, airing them out with band members improvising and connecting with each other to create some excellent, steady jams that showed off the band’s chemistry after about a month on tour and 19 shows under their belts. And the chemistry of the band seemed like hot lava, as they wove their way through songs, then segueing into a Dark Star reprise from Friday night, putting a good bookend to the open-ended journey for the song that began the night before.
What came next brought things to a higher level, as Dark Star turned into an acoustic Friend of the Devil that was downright bouncy, with Bobby and John splitting vocals. FOTD featured Mayer showing his acoustic jams could match his electric for passion. But keyboardist Jeff Chimenti took a turn in the spotlight on this one at the 4:12 mark (yes, I’ve listened to the show again since Saturday!), ripping off a lively ivory solo. Fans have really been calling for Jeff to step out into the foreground a bit more, and he did in Boulder and I was happy to see that trend continue here. Next up was a version of Althea that started off easy enough, getting into its laid back, slinky groove before Mayer launched into an ascending solo about halfway through this 13 minute monster, increasing his speed and intensity as he went. Jeff joined in over the top of John’s tasteful riffing, helping to bring the tune to a fevered pitch before the band laid it back down into a mid-tempo jam and final verse they rode to the conclusion in front of a crowd still in awe of the solos. I was sure the set was going to end there, on a high note. And I was happy to be wrong, as they closed out the set with a vibrant, rollicking version of Casey Jones that showcased Mayer’s vocal chops and Dead & Co. moving along at full speed towards the end, picking up the pace with each line until they couldn’t keep up with themselves and the song crashed over itself into the intermission.
The band opened the second set seeking to immediately re-establish the party vibe with a buoyant Dancin’ in the Streets, which got particularly groovy at the end and led into a jovial Playin’ In the Band with some country type picking…giving way to Comes a Time, which has gotten a few plays on this tour.
Earlier in the day bassist Oteil Burbridge teased a surprise for fans at Saturday’s show. I assume the surprise was the fantastic fireworks display during the Sunshine Daydream closer, but he just as easily could have been talking about his real coming out party as a vocalist for Dead & Co. He got to sing lead on three songs…Ship of Fools, Comes a Time, and a energetic Scarlet>Fire that crackled with energy and a big crescendo that had the entire crowd on their feet singing and dancing, and then loudly cheering when they realized Oteil was at the mic. We’re down the road a bit from last summer, when Mr. Burbridge sang a single verse. Now by the end of 2017 we’re at 3 vocal spots, and I have to ask…what took so long? Oteil has sung China Doll a few times on this tour (including Boulder) to great reception, and he equally shined on these Wrigley tunes. In fact, he might have given Mayer a run for his money on the title of most soulful singer in the band!
Drums and Space led off the home stretch, which included The Other One, Days Between, and Not Fade Away… which had the crowd loudly singing about their love not fading away as the second set came to a close.
The encore started slowly with a somber Brokedown Palace, but Dead & Co. kicked it up considerably for a rousing Sunshine Daydream that exploded, literally, with an extended fireworks display that illuminated the interior of the stadium and the night sky, capping off a great weekend of music and what had to have been one of the best shows of the tour.
FULL GALLERY BELOW
- Cold Rain & Snow
- Jack Straw
- Tennessee Jed
- Ship Of Fools (Oteil/Mayer)
- Dark Star
- Friend Of The Devil
- Casey Jones
- Dancin’ In The Streets
- Playin’ In The Band
- Comes A Time
- Scarlet Begonias
- Fire On The Mountain
- The Other One
- Days Between
- Not Fade Away
- Brokedown Palace
- Sunshine Daydream
Future tour dates, and links to the bands live recordings and merchandise, can be found on the band’s website: www.deadandcompany.com .