Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA, 11/8/19 ALAC
After four triumphant shows split between two iconic venues in the New York metropolitan area, Dead & Company headed south to finish off the East Coast mini-tour called the Fall Fun Run with a couple of nights in a spot with its own special place in Grateful Dead lore: Virginia's Hampton Coliseum, known and loved by live music fans as ""The Mothership"" for its distinctive design and multicolored exterior lighting, suggesting a late-1960s architect's idea of what a spacecraft might look like in some distant future. The Dead logged 21 shows at Hampton between 1979 and 1992, with the most legendary of these almost certainly being the two that the band played on October 8th and 9th of 1989. This was just two years after the stunning commercial success of the multi-platinum album ""In The Dark"" and its breakout Top Ten single, ""Touch Of Grey."" The accompanying increase in the Dead's audience base made the idea of playing a relatively small room like Hampton Coliseum problematic, and local authorities were nervous, to put it mildly, about what they envisioned as an unmanageable influx of humanity, both with and without tickets. But the band and its promoters came up with an ingenious workaround: they scheduled two shows at the Mothership that were not featured in any announcements of the other stops on the Dead's fall tour; tickets for the two concerts were put on sale just 10 days in advance of the dates, rather than weeks or even months in advance, as was usually the case; only local ticket outlets were used, with no mail order sales or availability on national electronic ticketing chains; and in the sneakiest bit of all, the words ""Grateful Dead"" were never used in advertising the shows. Instead, the headliner was listed only as ""Formerly The Warlocks,"" in a nod to the Dead's short-lived original name from 1965. The ruse worked like a charm. Both dates sold out, but the crowd both in and outside the building remained of manageable size. The shows came off beautifully in both logistical and musical terms, and pristine multitrack recordings of those memorable evenings would be preserved in a hugely popular boxed set released in 2010.
Fortunately, Dead & Company required no special subterfuge to play Hampton under its own name. All was well in all departments, in the lively but orderly parking-lot scene and especially in the joyous atmosphere inside the Coliseum.
Opening night at Hampton quickly showed the band to be in the same peak form they'd achieved in those four nights up North, with first-set highlights including the show-opening pairing of ""Bertha"" and ""Good Lovin,'"" a lengthy, impeccably funky ""Shakedown Street,"" ""They Love Each Other,"" featuring a steadily building jam towards the end that's become a hallmark of this band's performances of the song and a characteristically powerful ""Throwing Stones"" to close out the first half.
After intermission, John Mayer offers a performance of ""Althea"" – the Hunter-Garcia composition he credits as central in having ignited his passion for the Grateful Dead – that demonstrates why the song has become such a hallmark of his time with Dead & Company. This sets the stage for a long, improvisation-rich segment of ""Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World > Terrapin Station"" that in turn provides a fine launch pad for a Drums segment perfectly and cosmically suited to the space-age environs of the Mothership. A delicate space sequence then shifts into a swinging waltz feel coalescing into a brief but sweet ""My Favorite Things,"" based on John Coltrane's immortal reinvention of the Rodgers & Hammerstein standard. From this emerges a lovely Jeff Chimenti piano solo heralding the always moving ""Days Between,"" the elegiac mood of which yields to the unalloyed celebration of the set-ending ""China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider"" combination. And for the encore? Why that very same ""Touch Of Grey"" that three decades earlier helped necessitate those stealthily planned ""Warlocks"" shows at Hampton.