Dead & Company with John Mayer play the jam party of the season | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Dead & Company with John Mayer play the jam party of the season 

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Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead

Courtesy the Artist

And now for a statement I never thought that I, a grown adult man, would ever put on the record: John Mayer rips. I know, I know, but bear with me here. For the past four years, three of the four surviving founding members of the Grateful Dead—drummer Bill Kreutzmann, drummer and percussionist Mickey Hart, and rhythm guitarist and singer Bob Weir—have been touring the world as Dead & Company and playing from the greatest songbook in American history. And they’ve brought along Mayer, of all people, to fill in for the late Jerry Garcia, one of the most cosmically skilled guitarists of all time. Even the most forgiving Deadhead might have questioned the decision. After all, what could the east-coast pretty-boy pop star possibly know about the starry-eyed shredding of San Francisco’s most beloved quasi-homeless acid casualty? Sure, the Dead’s music is bubbly on the surface, but Garcia was a dark dude, and that energy flowed strongly beneath the band’s four-part harmonies and dueling solos for piano and guitar. All skepticism aside, though, Mayer has proved himself a worthy stand-in. His soulful voice beautifully complements the Dead’s classics and deep cuts, and while his bouncy, lyrical, buttery-smooth guitar playing doesn’t exactly replicate Garcia’s, it feels like it comes from a place of love and respect for the source material. Most important—much like in the Dead’s best 70s live performances—no one in Dead & Company steps on anyone else’s toes. Though Mayer is the lead guitarist, he never hogs the spotlight, which gives the band’s elders plenty of space to demonstrate over and over what makes them living legends. Dead & Company shows are always the party of the year. Whether you love the Dead or have never listened to them (no one who gives them an honest-to-goodness chance ever ends up disliking them), these two concerts are not to be missed.   v

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