Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA - Cover Art

A funny thing happened on the way to Dead & Company’s last three scheduled tour dates of 2017. Well, not so funny from the standpoint of John Mayer, whose appendicitis attack and subsequent emergency surgery on December 5th necessitated postponement until the following February of the show scheduled for that night in New Orleans and the remaining two dates in Florida. But hey… if you’re gonna strand several thousand music-hungry fans anywhere, you could hardly pick a better place than New Orleans, birthplace of so much of our shared cultural heritage and a town where music and good times (and great food!) are continuously and abundantly available. Needless to say, the Dead Heads found plenty of ways to make their own fun during the unexpected time off from tour. As a longtime friend of the Dead put it, “John Mayer has the best bad timing ever!”

Needless to say, when the rescheduled New Orleans date rolled around a few months later, both band and audience were ready to go. And John Mayer, minus appendix, was fully recovered and then some, as he’d already demonstrated at the Playing In The Sand shows in Mexico earlier in February. The band rewarded the patience of all who’d waited that extra time with a terrific show, enhanced by a visit by local musical royalty. Things start grooving quickly with a pairing of “Feel Like A Stranger” and “The Music Never Stopped” – the latter especially well chosen in the Crescent City, where the truth in that title has held true for centuries. After that fine table-setter, and then visits to folk roots with “Cold Rain And Snow,” “Peggy-O” and “Friend Of The Devil,” the party really heats up when one of the paragons of the city’s musical community joins the band onstage to a richly deserved hero’s welcome: bassist and singer George Porter, Jr., co-founder of one of the greatest bands of all time, the Meters and the foundation of countless iconic recordings produced in the studios of New Orleans over a period of more than five decades. With one of Porter’s most avid fans and disciples, Oteil Burbridge, happily ceding his spot and watching with joy from the side, George shares lead vocals with Bob Weir on “Smokestack Lightning,” provides a funky bottom to “Bertha” and then blows the roof off the place with soulful lead vocal on “Sugaree” to close out the first set. A hard act to follow, but Dead & Co. somehow pull it off in Part 2 with a sizzling “Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain” opener to a variety-packed set highlighted by John and Oteil’s shared vocals on “Ship Of Fools,” a deeply emotional “Stella Blues” and a celebratory set-ending “One More Saturday Night,” with just a tinge of New Orleans R&B to it. The encore is a crowd-pleasing and rare – the only one played on this tour – take on Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves Of London.”