Dead & Company
American Airlines Center, Dallas
Friday, Dec. 1, 2017
As John Mayer introduced his song "If I Ever Get Around to Living" at a show in San Antonio last August, he told the crowd that the album it's on, Born and Raised, hadn't sold very well. “I’ve played the songs you wanted to hear tonight,” Mayer said, referring to songs such as his early 2000s hit “Your Body Is a Wonderland." “Now let me play some of what I like to play.”
Friday night at the American Airlines Center, Mayer performed just music he enjoys. He was playing with passion project Dead & Company, a band that formed in 2015 after Mayer met Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir during an appearance on The Late Late Show.
Mayer and Weir formed a bond and enlisted original Grateful Dead members Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, along with keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and bassist Oteil Burbridge, in their new band. Dead & Company played its first show Halloween night 2015 and began touring shortly thereafter.
Dead & Company took the stage around 7:15 Friday night. They walked out casually, as if they were preparing to rehearse. Mayer donned gray baggy pants held up by a drawstring, a white T-shirt and a patterned jacket that resembled a kimono. Weir and Burbridge flanked him, both wearing jeans and black T-shirts.
Early Friday morning, Mayer responded to a Twitter follower who asked him how he would describe a Deadhead to a neophite. “Imagine a guy named Alan,” Mayer wrote. “Your friend always brings him around, talking about all the cool stuff Alan said when you weren’t there. But Alan doesn’t really make eye contact with you. You may come to resent him. Then one day, when your car breaks down, someone pulls up. It’s Alan. Let the record reflect that this is actually about the Dead’s music. The Dead is Alan. The Head is your friend.”
On Friday night, the AAC felt more like a two-car garage than a 20,0000-capacity arena. Dead & Company presented themselves as a few dudes just jamming out and rarely stopped to speak to the audience.
Seven songs in, Weir finally broke his silence to announce that the band would play one more song and then take a short break. “Some of us need it more than others,” the gray-haired septuagenarian said.
If people showed up Friday hoping to hear Mayer hits such as “No Such Thing,” they went home disappointed.
Dead & Company's set stuck to covers from Grateful Dead's discography from the '60s through the '90s, and the performance was authentic to the original band.
But fans of Mayer who were curious to hear a different side to the musician had a unique opportunity. He played challenging chords and riffs with his eyes closed, demonstrating his talent on the guitar in a new way.
“If you’re curious about these shows [Dead & Company’s fall tour] but aren’t familiar with the music, might I suggest that a concert is a lovely place to discover a band," Mayer tweeted to his fans in November. On Friday night, it was.