Dead and Company’s summer tour — the group’s last ever, at least in its current incarnation — had its official kick-off on Friday, May 19, at Los Angeles’ Forum. The first of a two-night stand, the band — featuring original members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart along with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti and Jay Lane (sitting in for Bill Kreutzmann who had to sit the 2023 trek out) — was in top form musically, playing for nearly four hours and spanning the Grateful Dead catalog from early studio cuts (“St. Stephen,” “The Eleven”) to Jerry Garcia solo songs (“Deal,” “The Wheel”) to fan favorites (“Eyes of the World,” “Wharf Rat”).
The show’s arena-sized production complemented the grandness of the moment, the video screens cycling through psychedelic colors and imagery to match the lighting, which felt more Phish-like than previous outings. The L.A. crowd soaked — and smoked — it up in a warm collective embrace.
If night one set the pace with standbys like “Estimated Prophet,” “Sugar Magnolia” and the show’s opener, “Shakedown Street,” night two rewarded the faithful with the multi-layered “Terrapin Station” and “Franklin’s Tower” as well as the somber and reflective harmonies of “Brokedown Palace.” Vocally, all of the members sounded great, but Mayer added an understated elegance, especially on songs where he takes the lead, like “Althea” and “Sugaree.”
How are fans feeling about this “Final Tour,” as the trek is billed? By the looks of it, grateful — to have one last go-round in a familiar space with several thousand like-minded heads.
On hand to document the run is longtime Grateful Dead photographer Jay Blakesberg, who captured the energy onstage in the images below.