Dead & Company’s Sphere Debut Melts Faces

Spectacular production combined with band’s improvisational performance makes for mind-blowing opening.

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SPHERE STATE OF MIND: Dead & Company perform at the Sphere in Las Vegas Thursday to open their residency, which is the venue’s third so far. (Staff Photo)

If there was a band tailor-made for wowing audiences at Sphere in Las Vegas it would be Dead & Company.

Thursday night’s show, the first of their 24-night residency, at the spectacular Las Vegas venue, kicked off with the audience treated to stunning images of the original Dead’s ’60s-era house in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. As the image pulled back, it shifted to an eventual view from space, which at times was hard not to feel like you were the one moving.

With a 40-minute break, D&C’s set opened with “Feel Like A Stranger” and climaxed with “Not Fade Away. In between, a run of Dead faves was interspersed with images and animations of a rainforest, a western setting for the faux “Me and My Uncle” film, featuring Bobby “Ace” Weir, the band’s rhythm guitarist and co-vocalist who joined the original band as a teen in 1960s Palo Alto, California, and so much more.

At one point the Sphere was covered with images of tickets and passes to Dead shows from through the decades,, which in the early days were mail ordered through the Dead’s dynamic fanclub. The images made it easy for those of a certain age and deadheadedness to spot a show they went to.

The interplay between keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (Bob Weir Band & RatDog) and lead guitarist John Mayer was, at times, spectacularly improvisational= and the band’s spacier jams were Jerry Garcia-worthy versions of the Dead’s secret formula of taking the audience for a white-knuckle sonic ride before delivering them safely to their destination — the song they too might well have forgotten they were listening to in the first place.

Original Dead member Mickey Hart and his drum partner Jay Lane, with help from bassist Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band and Tedeschi Trucks), produced a rhythmically psychedelic space segment that vibrated the floor of the venue and topped the notable segments from the band’s final tours.

By the end of the set, which began just after 7:30 p.m. and ended a little after 11, the delighted Deadheads filed through the Venetian Hotel and onto the strip, making it all feel like an incredibly new twist on an act dating back to the mid-1960s, one that has a rich history in Sin City thanks to its shows at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Bottom line: if you like the Dead, you will love seeing them at the Sphere which, for now, is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and worthy of the hype. The band has 23 remaining dates at Sphere, with dates into mid July.