By Jeff Zillgitt USA Today
June 8, 2018. May 24, 1991. May 25, 1972.
When the first note of “Brown-Eyed Woman” kicks in, it could be any of those dates.
That’s not lost on Dead and Company guitarist and vocalist John Mayer who recalls looking into the crowd, seeing college-age people and realizing they are experiencing something their parents or grandparents may have experienced.
“The power of Dead and Company is that you might not have been born at the wrong time if you want to go to a concert where the spirit of the Grateful Dead is alive and well,” Mayer says. “The magic of Dead and Company to me is that it’s not over. It doesn’t have to be over.”
It’s going on right now as Dead and Company roll through a summer tour, playing Citi Field Friday and Saturday in New York, and then going west before concluding the tour July 13-14 in Boulder, Colorado. The band will also play two shows at the Lockn’ Music Festival on Aug. 25-26 in Arrington, Virginia.
The Dead and Company experience distorts time, and the band relishes that.
“Time gets entirely elastic and takes on its own continuum of what we’re doing,” Grateful Dead founding member and guitarist-vocalist Bob Weir says. “Yesterday is some combination of the last show we did and the last 50 years of what we’ve been doing. There is no time between.”
The band’s lineup includes Weir, Mayer, longtime Grateful Dead percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.
“This tour comes at an important time,” Hart says. “Music mediates troubled times. That’s why this particular tour seems very special, considering the political climate and all of these scares. There are a lot of scares out there, and this is a place where you can come to get your center, and you can enjoy life.”
Weir says the band plans to keep going in its current form as long as possible.
“I’ve got no other plans,” Weir says. “I get fulfillment out of it, quite simply. It’s what makes me feel like I’m here for a reason.”
Weir wasn’t looking to resurrect any version of the Dead, but as the band sings in “Scarlet Begonias,” “once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
In 2015, Weir and other members of the Grateful Dead were preparing for five Fare Thee Well concerts, celebrating 50 years of the iconic American band.
“We had Fare Thee Well, and I was good with that,” Weir says. “I was going to go my own way and pursue my own end, and this happened instead.”
Earlier in 2015, Mayer filled in as a guest host for “The Late Late Show,” and Weir was a musical guest. Before taping, they did a sound check. It was supposed to last 10-15 minutes. Two hours later, Weir and Mayer were still jamming.
“I knew it was sustainable that night,” Weir says. “I knew at that point this was going to go on for a while.”
In Mayer, they found a guitarist who honors the spirit of Grateful Dead founding member Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995, while putting his own mark on the music.
“I’m not sure where I’ve ended up as a guitar player is any high-minded decision not to sound too much like Jerry Garcia,” Mayer says. “It’s a failure to sound too much like Jerry Garcia. If I could sound more like him, I would. It’s a quest to try and get closer to the intention. That’s what matters to me.”