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Dead & Company Sphere Best Moments: Las Vegas Concert Review

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It wasn’t all dancing bears at Dead & Co.’s debut Sphere show (though the bears were there!). Here are our favorite moments from show 1.

Toward the end of their opening-night concert at Las Vegas’ Sphere, Dead & Company performed “Hell in a Bucket” backed by a floor-to-roof technicolor video that included so many of the visual touchstones we’ve come to associate with Grateful Dead: There was a skeleton riding a motorcycle with his long gray hair blowing in the wind. There were roses blanketing a hillside. There were dancing bears poking their colorful heads out along the road. There was a soaring turtle with a lightning bolt on his belly. And they were all surrounded by a psychedelic scene of cotton-candy clouds, bubblegum-pink windmills and flying eyeballs.

But this eye-popping visual wasn’t par for the course on Thursday night (May 16). The Grateful Dead spin-off group – made up of Dead founding members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart alongside John Mayer and the band’s longtime collaborators Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti and Jay Lane — put music center-stage while sparingly (and effectively) deploying Sphere’s bombastic bag of tricks.

Just as often as a lightning storm or a galaxy of stars lit up the massive screen, a static-but-decorative frame would display a straightforward video of the musicians performing a 20-minute-plus jam session of one song. Those concert videos were much larger than any jumbotron at a typical arena, given the Sphere’s 240-foot-tall display, but it was an example of Dead & Company sticking to the live strategy that served their parent band for decades, with an extra dose of spectacle that felt like an organic extension, not a stretch.

Those technical spectacles, while very much a product of 2024, were often in the service of a history lesson about the band’s origins. As the third band to break in the Sphere – following a six-month stint from U2 that wrapped in March and a four-concert mini-residency from Phish last month – Dead & Co. molded the striking venue in their image on Thursday night, finding ways to give fans a modern show while embracing where they’re from.

Below, find Billboard’s five best moments from opening night of Dead & Company’s 24-date Sphere residency.

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