Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL 6/30/17 (Live) Digital
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Dead & Company could hardly have picked a more perfect place to close out their 2017 Summer tour than Wrigley Field, the storied and revered shrine to baseball on the North Side of Chicago. The home of the Chicago Cubs since 1916, Wrigley is the second oldest venue in the major leagues (predated only by another spot the band visited on the same tour, Boston’s Fenway Park).
Nicknamed “the Friendly Confines” for its welcoming atmosphere and ever-affable fans, it was a particularly friendly place to be in the summer of ’17, for a very special reason: for the first time in its more than 100-year history, Wrigley Field could finally be called Home of the WORLD CHAMPION Chicago Cubs! Yes, the previous fall, the Cubbies had ended the longest run of futility in baseball history by vanquishing the Cleveland Indians in seven heartstopping games to win the team’s first World Series since 1908 – eight years before the franchise set up shop at Wrigley. Given the historically unprecedented circumstances, the old ballpark had an especially happy feel to it when Dead & Company took the stage, located in the outfield right by those famous ivy-bedecked walls for the first in a two-show stand. What to do but deliver still more joy? And indeed, they did.
“The Music Never Stopped” serves as an apt opener for a first set that would be characterized by some gleeful shredding of the planned set list, proving that even if it never stops, the music can always go in some strange and wondrous directions. Some of the first-half highlights include a lively “Bertha,” a soulful “Sugaree” that just builds and builds in intensity, and a long and exploratory “Let It Grow,” toward the end of which Bob and then John deftly switch from electric to acoustic guitars to take us into “Uncle John’s Band,” and then, during that song’s central jam, back to electric, just in time to… well, that’s where Mr. Weir’s subversive side takes over, and you’ll just have to hear it for yourself. We’ll just say that the prankster is still strong in Bobby.
Having left the crowd at first set’s end in a delightful state of befuddled suspense, the band fires up part two with a deeply funky “Shakedown Street,” then keep the unpredictability coming by shifting the setting from the beating-out-loud heart of Chicago to the uncharted cosmos of “Dark Star” – or the first verse thereof, opening the door to more mystery – before landing us once again on the solid ground of “St. Stephen.” Another change in mood, as Jeff Chimenti’s piano introduces the profound beauty of “China Doll,” sung by Oteil Burbridge, followed by the unmistakable beginning to the ever-powerful “Terrapin Station,” the ending of which segues into the resolution of one of those mysteries posed earlier in the show (but leaving one other shoe yet to drop), before the stage is left to the Rhythm Devils to bring the thunder. Typical of this wild ride of a show, the Space sequence suggests multiple directions without going definitively in any of them, until the band coalesces into a plaintive “Standing On The Moon,” out of which bursts the “Help On The Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower” wrap-up to the set.
The great “Mr. Cub,” Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, had a saying that expressed his love of baseball: “Let’s play two!” And so, for the encore, Dead & Co. do just that, delivering a doubleheader of “Ripple” and “U.S. Blues” to polish off one great night, with one yet to go.
|The Music Never Stopped||10:57|
|Me & My Uncle||4:40|
|Let It Grow||14:00|
|Uncle John's Band||12:06|
|Uncle John's Band||1:52|
|Standing on the Moon||9:51|
|Help on the Way||4:34|