Watch Dead & Company’s Wistful ‘Uncle John’s Band’ on ‘Late Show’

Dead & Company wrapped up a two-night residency at The Late Show with a wistful rendition of the Grateful Dead's classic "Uncle John's Band."

For their take on the Workingman's Dead track, guitarists John Mayer and Bob Weir and bassist Oteil Burbridge shared lead vocals on the track, with Mayer taking the reins on the guitar solo.

Like the previous night's performance of "Jack Straw," Weir also paid homage to their late frontman by wearing a Jerry Garcia shirt for the Ed Sullivan Theatre visit.

Dead & Company – which pairs Grateful Dead superfan Mayer with the Dead's Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann alongside Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti – kicked off their fall tour this week with a pair of gigs at New York's Madison Square Garden. The 15-date jaunt concludes December 8th in Sunrise, Florida.

The band also previously announced their three-concert getaway in Riviera Maya, Mexico in February 2018.

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John Cale Stages Roaring Tribute to Velvet Underground With MGMT, Sky Ferreira, Animal Collective, More

In the program notes to his scruffy, roaring Velvet Underground tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night, John Cale, 75, noted he's "reluctant to spend too much time on things past." Fair enough. But as foundational member and key sonic architect of a band that ranks with rock's greatest, he's earned a victory lap. And 50 years – the time passed since the game-changing 1967 LP The Velvet Underground & Nico – is a long time.

That said, the concert – which was similar to one staged last spring as part of a major Velvet Underground exhibit at the Philharmonie de Paris – was no museum display, but a living thing, writhing and howling. And its best moments found a balance between replication and reinvention.

Even the stage set was an impressionistic take on the Velvets' legacy, hung with circular projection screens that echoed the polka-dot slide projections concocted by Andy Warhol and his Factory team for the band's mid-Sixties shows as part of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Cale, resembling a late-game Samuel Beckett with white hair exploding in all directions, took the stage in a black suit jacket over a sort of black tunic. He began by noting the original Velvets who weren't on stage: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Nico (all dead) and drum radical Mo Tucker (missing in action down south). In their place, Cale enlisted a younger generation of artists, none of whom might make a short list of obvious VU devotees, tellingly, but all of whom illuminated aspects of what made that band great.

In a similar spirit, the set list wasn't a song-for-song remake of the first LP. Backed by his own impressive band, Cale opened with a pounding, hollering "Waiting for My Man." The four-piece group became seven for "White Light/White Heat," as laid-back guitar master Kurt Vile ripped nasty, agitated low-end surf licks from his guitar and Brigid Dawson of the Oh Sees sang cheerily about speed freaks. When MGMT launched into a beautifully harmonized, surprisingly faithful rendition of "All Tomorrow's Parties," the song's signature drones were thickened by a sousaphone player. When Cale sang "Venus in Furs" (as he did with the Velvets when Reed was indisposed) alongside a string ensemble, he did it with impressive relish, his Welsh accent giving lines like "taste the whip, now bleeeed for me" a potent spin – dude might've had a successful second career as a dom.

Not everything worked as well: Sky Ferreira reading of "I'll Be Your Mirror" felt perfunctory, and Animal Collective's reshaping of "There She Goes Again" into a warped techno-reggae jam, which might have amplified the song's looming violence, seemed instead to trivialize it. Generally, things were most thrilling when they were loudest, a reminder that the Velvet Underground v1.0, in addition to singing about things no one else dared, were maybe the most aggressively noisy band of their day. Kurt Vile blasted magnificently through "Run Run Run." MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden incanted the verses of "The Black Angel's Death Song" hypnotically over a dizzying swarm of brass and sputtering electronics. Illuminated by blood-red projections, TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe alternately crooned and yelled through "Heroin," making the best of what seemed like a malfunctioning microphone, as the din of Cale's viola drowned out his words in sonic analog to a drug overdose. A fittingly cacophonous, unhinged, extended "Sister Ray," with pretty much every player on stage, didn't dwell much on lyrics, instead searching for a mainline of nirvana in the chaos, and intermittently finding it.

The most touching moment, however, was the debut album's lead track, "Sunday Morning," slotted near the end of the program. Chairlift's Caroline Polacheck, the night's most convincing Nico stand-in, joined Cale to sing it – fitting, as the song was first imagined as a showpiece for the German chanteuse, though Reed ultimately sang it on the LP. With faded Sixties Instamatic-style images of Times Square and seedy old New York projected behind him, Cale sang creakily about "all the streets you crossed not so long ago," adding a half-century's worth of wistfulness to Reed's words and, indeed, making it seem not so long ago at all.

Set List
"I'm Waiting for the Man"
"White Light/White Heat"
"All Tomorrow's Parties"
"Venus in Furs"
"I'll Be Your Mirror"
"There She Goes Again"
"Run Run Run"
"The Black Angel's Death Song"
"Femme Fatale"
"Lady Godiva's Operation"
"European Son"
"Sunday Morning"
"Heroin"
"Sister Ray"

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See Dead & Company’s Buoyant ‘Jack Straw’ on ‘Colbert’

Dead & Company performed a breezy, unhurried rendition of the Grateful Dead standard "Jack Straw" on The Late Show.

Former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and noted Grateful Dead superfan John Mayer traded lead vocal duties, playing up the contrast between their voices: Weir sang with a pleasant, laid-back rasp; Mayer countered with a plush croon. Jeff Chimenti sketched the song's primary melody on his piano and Mayer frequently added pinprick-precise guitar solos.

Dead & Company started their fall tour this week with a pair of shows at Madison Square Garden. They have 13 more concerts scheduled around the U.S. before wrapping up the tour December 8th in Florida.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in June, Mayer said that playing with Dead & Company made him feel like "a pig in shit." "I've never had inclusion before," he explained. "I always created one-man clubs, and one-man shows are very hard to live inside of and inhabit for 50 years. When I was invited into this tribe … It's like a basketball team – you are doing your best to help the team win. I've never in my life been in that situation, and it's everything I always wanted."

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