Dead & Company made its Florida debut on Monday night with a powerful and emotional show that will be remembered for years to come. The rescheduled date, due to guitarist and vocalist John Mayer’s emergency appendectomy in December, couldn’t have been more timely following the horrific tragedy in nearby Parkland just 12 days prior. Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School is located just 13 miles north of Sunrise, Florida’s BB&T Center.
Emotions were high as the band took the stage with bassist and vocalist Otiel Burbridge and guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir walking out wearing maroon MSDStrong T-shirts. At the beginning of the second set Burbridge changed into a “March of Our Lives” rally shirt and drummers Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart donned the MSDstrong shirts. By the end of the concert each band member wore maroon shirt paying homage to those who were lost and supporting the survivors as they fight for change. The statement fits right into the spirit of the Grateful Dead, who were born out of the turbulent 1960s and brought with them a message of peace, solidarity and unity that was first embraced by the counterculture over 50 years ago.
The band didn’t opt for any heavy-handed political or empowering speeches, however. Rather, they let the music and the lyrics do the talking. Opening with an epic 10-plus minute “Shakedown Street,” for example, the crowd erupted when Bob Weir stepped to the mic to deliver the first line of the song, “You tell me this town ain’t got no heart.” Tears flowed as people danced and the audience collectively prepared for what would be an emotional evening of music.
The first set provided many highlights including a beautiful Oteil Burbridge-led “Comes A Time,” an inspiring “Bird Song,” which was reprised briefly after “New Speedway Boogie” and an uplifting “Deal” to close the first set. John Mayer shined all night long channeling the late great Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia with fiery and bluesy guitar work and leaving the crowd in awe.
The second set was one of songs that seemed to subtly nod to the recent tragedy. It kicked off with a cover of The Band’s classic “The Weight,” followed by a jam-fueled 30-minute trifecta of “Help on the Way,” “Slipknot” and “Eyes of the World,” which included incredible solos from Mayer, Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. During the politically-charged 1987 track “Throwin’ Stones,” Weir changed the poignant line, “Selling guns instead of food today” to a chill-inducing scream. “You can buy the whole goddamn government today,” he declared, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
Dead & Company closed the show with “Touch of Grey,” which let loose the capacity crowd on a more hopeful note: “We will get by. We will survive.”
Dead & Co MSD groupDead & Company worked with Congressman Ted Deutch’s office to bring together a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, parents and teachers who were impacted by the shooting in Parkland, Florida. The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir has long been politically active, and serves on the board of Headcount, which empowers and informs young people and music fans by staging voter registration sign-ups at events.
Comes A Time
They Love Each Other
New Speedway Boogie
Help on the Way
Eyes of the World
Touch of Grey