How Dead and Company Revitalized Their Act at the Las Vegas Sphere

How Dead and Company Revitalized Their Act at the Las Vegas Sphere

On Friday, May 24, Dead & Company returned to Las Vegas’ Sphere to kick off the second weekend of its 24-night Dead Forever residency at the pioneering new venue. In its endlessly innovative style, the band set a high bar for the second frame of its series with a unique selection of fan favorites, keeping fans on their toes with captivating twists on its songbook, set to a dazzling rotation of Dead-themed imagery. The group’s fourth Sphere show was also distinguished by the hotly-anticipated arrival of some classics, including a ripping run through “Dark Star.”

As the lights went up on the Sphere stage, the audience was transported once more to the band’s original San Francisco stomping grounds as the Sphere simulated 710 Ashbury as it has at the outset of each of these shows. Dead & Company opened its first set with “I Need a Miracle,” which marked the first time that the Shakedown Street standout has opened a D&C show. The band then trucked ahead through “The Music Never Stopped” and “They Love Each Other,” which spotlighted John Mayer’s virtuosic guitar work as tie-die textures spiraled off into the track’s deep and cozy pocket and dancing bears encircled the ensemble.

From this lofty and low-key moment, the band put on The Band’s essential “The Weight,” which shined as a live staple for the Dead in the ‘90s and has since become a beloved addition to Dead & Company’s summer sets. Bobby Weir took the fore for “Cassidy,” the 1972 Ace fan favorite co-written by John Barlow, steering into his countrified style as the Sphere cast him as the leading man its retro Western title-card sequence. The credits continued to roll for Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” then flipped over to the cluttered wall of precious Dead mementos as the band closed out the first set with the beloved “Althea.”

Dead & Company turned up the heat for its second set, transitioning from “Playing in the Band” to the undeniably essential “Dark Star,” which made its welcome first appearance in the Sphere run with its traditionally epic and exploratory dimensions. Arriving unexpectedly early in the set, and before its typical “Drums” and “Space” configuration, the cut transported the Vegas audience to a surrealist alien landscape and the band dug deep, conjuring bold new psychedelic textures from the classic in a rhythmically intricate extended jam. Next, the band merged into “St. Stephen,” mounting pressure to seamlessly tip into “Let It Grow,” which revived the venue’s simulation of the Dead’s iconic Wall of Sound.

Hart assumed the spotlight for “Drums” and took the set to far-out and heady places with some tricky melodic and percussive moves on The Beam for “Space.” Bringing the energy back down to Earth, the band moodily lurched into “Days Between” in an unexpectedly moody and affective highlight for the run, which was paired with live footage of the band and the moon shining over the Vegas strip. Dead & Company pulled out some more covers with its trademark pairing of Traffic’s “Mr. Fantasy” and a quick tag of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” leaving the crowd to belt out the lyrics alone as always.

“Sugar Magnolia” was set to the skeletal Uncle Sam’s tripped-out ride through space and time, bringing the venue’s energy to a feverish last peak before pulling back for a hot, heavy and bluesy take on the American Beauty highlight “Brokedown Palace,” which poetically returned the band to its “Haight-Ashbury” roots once more. After it all, the band left its fans sated–for now–with the iconic crossover hit “Touch of Grey.”

Dead & Company will perform at Sphere again tonight for the second show in its three-night run this weekend. For tickets and more information, visit

Read on for the complete setlist from Friday, May 24.

Dead & Company
Sphere – Las Vegas

Set I: I Need a Miracle, The Music Never Stopped, They Love Each Other, The Weight, Cassidy, Mama Tried, Althea
Set II: Playing in the Band > Dark Star > St. Stephen > Let It Grow > Drums > Space > Days Between > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Hey Jude > Sugar Magnolia, Brokedown Palace, Touch of Grey

Source: Dead & Company, Sphere

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