Folsom Field – For decades, the venue has been a legendary haven for Deadheads dating back to the early 1970’s. While the Dead had played numerous shows in the Colorado area before, including the Miller Ballroom at CU in ’69, and two acoustic shows in ’70 at the Mammoth Garden (now the Fillmore), nothing quite sparked the interest of the Grateful Dead in the Centennial State quite like the legendary 1972 performance at Folsom Field in Boulder. Conditions were soggy, and the rain was relentless, but the music never stopped, and Colorado would grow to become one of the band’s most faithful markets, returning 41 more times to play shows in Telluride, Mile High Stadium, CU Events Center, McNichols Arena, and the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Flash forward 46 years to July 14th, 2018 – While the landscape of the Grateful Dead community has changed drastically since those glory days, the spirit is very much alive with old and young alike. This past Saturday, thousands of fans from around the country descended upon the historic Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado to commemorate years past and create new memories to the tune of Dead & Company, the newest, and perhaps last iteration of remaining core members of the Grateful Dead, less Phil of course. While Friday night’s performance was met with mixed reviews, stemming from a number of technical difficulties and out-of-sync playing, Saturday night was almost a near polar opposite. Dead & Company played tight, high-energy rock n’ roll from front to back, featuring an arrangement of true Grateful Dead classics and a double-encore that captivated the packed crowd and closed Summer Tour 2018 on a remarkable note.
As the lights went down on the final show of the summer for Dead & CO, the six-piece ensemble greeted the Colorado crowd with a wave an immediately got things moving, diving into the beloved “China Cat Sunflower,” which was greeted warmly by the Folsom fans. Next up, “I Know You Rider” came in hot and heavy, with Weir taking the lyrical reins and fans bellowing along to “I wish I was a headlight, on a northbound train,” which could seemingly be heard all throughout the city of Boulder. The group seemed to know their previous performance was not satisfactory for a tour closer, as the hits kept on coming with “Shakedown Street” in the three-hole and “Brown Eyed Women” batting cleanup. For the first time that night, John Mayer stepped up to the mic and delivered a jazzy, soulful rendition of Brown Eyed Women, playing high off keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. The two dueled back and forth, trading grooves and building off each other’s energy until it culminated into a crescendo of musical bliss.
Midway through set one, Mayer again took the vocals on a blues-filled “Althea,” a track off the Grateful Dead’s 1980 album Go to Heaven - the first album after Keith and Donna Godchaux’s departure, as well as the first album featuring keyboardist Brent Mydland. The nearly 13-minute exploration clocked in as the longest jam of the first set, as Mayer and Weir guided the band through a slow-building blues segment that inevitably exploded into an all-out rock n’ roll masterpiece. After a sweet, winding “Cassidy” the band reached the culmination of set one with the ever-appropriate “One More Saturday Night,” holding down the final position of the set. Similar to Althea and Shakedown, the classic weekend tune began slow, allowing Mayer explore all the right melodies before picking up the pace and ending the first set with an explosion of sound and the roar of thousands of ecstatic Deadheads.
Just when you thought Dead & Company might go a different direction, potentially bust out obscurity or dive into cover territory, the hits just kept on rolling like a brakeless freight train. Launching into a tremendous “Scarlet Begonias” to open set II, the band was firing on all cylinders with John Mayer leading the way, delivering blow after blow of passionate, meaningful guitar licks and ferocious vocals. Next up was “Franklin’s Tower,” another fan favorite off 1975’s Blues for Allah and clocking in as the longest jam of the night at just above 13 minutes. While many immediately expected Fire following the Begonias opener, the fans would have to be patient and were rewarded when “Fire on the Mountain” followed “Franklin’s Tower,” a rare combination that featured almost thirty minutes of heavy-hitting improvisation and tremendous playing by all six members. Bassist Oteil Burbridge had his moment to shine, as he leads the vocals through Fire assisted by the boisterous Folsom Field crowd.
After seemingly endless hits, the band transitioned to a more serious note taking on a moving rendition of “He’s Gone” followed by the blues-fueled “The Other One” highlighted by, you guessed it, John Mayer’s incredible blues guitar tone and patient notes. After a ten-minute escapade, “The Other One” broke down slowly into a very ambient, psychedelic “Drums/Space” in which the Rhythm Devils, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann took the jam into the deep parts of the unknown. Through the black hole and back into outer-space, the Dead & Company members slowly rejoined the stage as Weir and Oteil guided the theatrics back into the ending of “The Other One.” It was an incredible exploration of rhythmic sound accented by synths, drums and the buzzing energy of the crowd, creating an alternate reality for all to experience for those few brief minutes.
Back on planet earth, Weir guided the band and vocals through a slow, soulful ballad “Days Between,” which featured some beautiful work by keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, before firing up the cannons for an energetic, upbeat take on “Sugar Magnolia” to close the second set, and as if the night couldn’t get any sweeter, the best was still upon the horizon.
The band re-appeared a few brief moments later to the tune of “Uncle John’s Band,” a Grateful Dead masterpiece of the classic 1970 album Workingman’s Dead, sending the Boulder crowd into an absolute frenzy. A lengthy jam followed the chorus, as Mayer and Burbridge fueled the fire and set the foundation while Chimenti layered classical, rhythmic textures over the well-developed landscape. After “Uncle John’s Band” concluded, the six members gathered in the center of the stage and hugged for one last time this summer, showing the strength and bond the members had for each other. The band briefly left the stage, but with just under ten minutes to spare before curfew, Bob Weir appeared once more with a sparkling acoustic guitar, and the opening notes of “Ripple” stunned the already captivated crowd. For that brief moment, the stadium, the fans, and the band came together as one, creating one of the most amazing moments in the band’s history. It was the culmination of all the hard work, practice and touring the band had put in this summer, and a reflection of the dedication that Grateful Dead fans hold near and dear to their heart. It was an incredible moment for all to behold, and the perfect way to end Dead & Company’s 2018 Summer Tour.