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Citi Field, New York, NY 6/16/18  (Live) Digital

Citi Field, New York, NY 6/16/18 (Live) Digital

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The Grateful Dead always knew that if you were gonna play on a Saturday night in New York City, you had to bring your best stuff with you. Fully cognizant of this immutable truth, Dead & Company took to the turf at Citi Field for the second of their two night stand in the big town with all their pitches working, exemplified by a killer setlist notable for its variety, and plenty of room provided for expansive collective improvisation.

One of the greatest of show openers, “Sugar Magnolia,” sets things off in a joyous direction right off the bat, and “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” keeps spirits high. The set then offers a range of moods from folksy (“Peggy-O,” “Jack-a-Roe”) to rocking (“Bertha”) to poignant (“Comes A Time,”) and finishes off with a surprising twist – a beautifully played “Bird Song” that transforms into the bluesy lament of “New Speedway Boogie,” then back into “Bird Song.”

Set two wastes no time getting up to speed with the unmistakable opening licks that announce the triptych of “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot”> “Franklin’s Tower,” all potently played. Fresh on the heels of that, the first notes of “St. Stephen” evoke a roar from the crowd the likes of which had seldom been heard in the vicinity since Mookie Wilson’s grounder skittered between the legs of Bill Buckner in Game Six of the ’86 World Series next door at Shea Stadium. But there’s much more to come: for the first time, Dead & Company go straight on from “Stephen” to the “William Tell Bridge” and “The Eleven,” which they had just worked up at soundcheck that afternoon. And they nail it! That stunner sets the stage for an earthshaking Drums segment and then a Space sojourn that leads into the free-spirited swing of “Eyes Of The World,” with some piano work from Jeff Chimenti that would have blown the roof off the place if it had one. Then a complete shift in mood for the beautiful “Stella Blue,” followed by the sound of the other shoe playfully dropping: the joyous “Sunshine Daydream” coda to that “Sugar Magnolia” that started things off.  Only one encore can top that on a New York Saturday night. Yep, you guessed it!

FLAC is High Def 48/24