Dead & Company with John Mayer on guitar and Oteil Burbridge on bass is on tour this summer and turning in one inspired performance after the next.
Scott W. Allen, author of Aces Back to Back: The History of the Grateful Dead—like many others who have attended a Dead & Company show—can’t quite hold back the praise:
In less than three short years, Dead & Company have clearly established themselves as the best Grateful Dead offshoot band of the post-Garcia era, and by a wide margin. There is a level of musicianship, combined with a commitment to the music and culture, that is unsurpassed by every previous Grateful Dead incarnate dating to 1995.
Of course, that’s absurd. Phil Lesh is not in the band.
What gets lost in these inside arguments is how there’s a massive difference between the actual music performed and one’s experience at a show. Many Deadheads have had experiences at shows post-Jerry that equaled or surpassed the experiences they had at actual Grateful Dead shows. That doesn’t mean the music is better. It means people are having the time of their life, regardless of who is playing the guitar or singing the songs.
Mayer does bring a muscular approach to his axe, and you need that with Grateful Dead music. I like Mayer’s enthusiasm and he’s incredibly talented, but he’s no match for Warren Haynes on guitar. Mayer’s work with Weir, which is also stellar, also falls short of Warren and Jimmy Herring’s inventive and commanding approach to the songbook.
The Quintet, which no longer plays as a unit, also featured Rob Barraco on vocals. His angelic voice sounds a lot like a young Jerry.
Today, if you want to immerse yourself in the power of Grateful Dead music, my recommendation is Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
The guys in JRAD can sing, and for me, that’s what’s been missing most from the modern mixes. Jerry was a virtuoso on guitar but his voice made me and many other people weep one minute and cry for joy the next. JRAD is also tight and getting tighter. On top of all that, one can see JRAD in awesome venues for a fair price.
Tickets for Dead & Company upcoming shows in Wrigley Feild are going for $200 on Stubhub right now. But get this…that’s the price for tickets that are not inside the venue. The tickets are for rooftop access across the street. By contrast, you can see JRAD at Red Rocks—America’s greatest outdoor venue— this summer for $45.