MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV 5/27/17 (Live) Digital
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV 5/27/17 (Live) Digital

MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV 5/27/17 (Live) Digital

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Visits by the Grateful Dead and succeeding bands of its core members – and, of course, throngs of Dead Heads -  have long been a beloved Las Vegas tradition. But it didn’t always look like it would be that way. When the Dead, at their peak of their popularity, announced plans to play at the city’s largest stadium, the Silver Bowl, in 1991, there were attempts to get the shows cancelled by powerful forces in Vegas, including owners of some of the major hotels and casinos, who expressed concern that the band would attract “the wrong element” – a rather amusing notion in a city that was pretty much founded and run for many decades by a really wrong element, personified by infamous gangsters like Ben “Bugsy” Siegel. But fears of invading hippies wreaking mayhem on the Vegas strip turned out to be utterly unfounded. The Dead’s shows came off without a hitch and the fans not only conducted themselves in exemplary fashion but, not insignificantly, pumped tens of millions into the local economy in just a few days. Not surprisingly, those once-nervous casino owners changed their tune in a hurry, putting “Welcome Dead Heads” on their giant electric marquees when the band returned to town each of the following four years.

The harmonious union of neon and tie-dye was still in full effect when Dead & Company returned to Vegas to kick off their 2017 Summer tour. Although the band members had not convened onstage since the previous July, there was no discernible rust in evidence as they launched into an especially appropriate opener for the cross-country trek, “The Music Never Stopped.” What follows is a show especially rich in songs from one of the Grateful Dead’s most creatively productive periods, the late 60s and early 70, including such first set favorites as “Dire Wolf,” “Loser,” “Friend Of The Devil,” and “Bird Song,” followed by a second half that begins with “Playing In The Band” and ends with that song’s reprise appended to an encore of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” providing a satisfying conclusion to a performance that also features  powerful renditions of the “China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider” combo, “The Other One,” “Black Peter” and “One More Saturday Night.”

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