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Dead and Company eager to follow Phish to Sphere

Updated April 22, 2024 - 9:49 am

Mickey Hart played the Ice Palace at the Commercial Center with the Grateful Dead in March 1969. His next will be the Sphere in May, with Dead and Company.

With those performances, Hart will be the rare musician to cover what has to be the widest chasm of live-music venues ever in Las Vegas. Ice Palace at the Commercial Center was where rock bands played when they weren’t booked at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Led Zeppelin and The Doors were bands that headlined the hybrid ice rink/music club).

The Sphere is the polar opposite of the icy enclave, designed specifically for cutting-edge music production.

“We didn’t know what Ice Palace was, other than it was the kind of place we played in those days,” Hart says. “But the Sphere is new; it’s the new generation. It’s a giant leap for sound and lights. It’s a giant step into the future.”

Dead & Company, which features Hart’s longtime Grateful Dead bandmate Bob Weir and guitar great John Mayer, will perform “Dead Forever—Live At Sphere” from May 16 to Juky 13. The all-star jam band is booked for 24 shows.

Hart’s artistry will precede that residency. His paintings and the work of famed filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg will appear in a combined show on the Sphere’s Exosphere on Monday, marking Earth Day. These shows run at 6 a.m., 7 p.m., and 8 p.m. Shoetwr clips will run at various times throughout the day.

Hart and Schwartzberg are the latest artists to design art for the Exosphere, a component of the Sphere’s XO/Art program.

“It’s like a cosmic symphony, you might look at it, a visual representation of my music,” Hart says. “It’s a wonderful thing, and I’m just really taken aback by it all. The use of the art by the wonderful people at the Sphere is extraordinary.”

Schwartzberg said, “I am excited to share nature’s wonders on the largest canvas on Earth. These sequences make the invisible visible by exploring the foundations of Life. We start with Earth’s majestic landscapes, to the soil making fungi, to flowers and their pollinators, all of which propels life to flourish.”

Hart says his work will also be used inside the Sphere in the “Dead Forever” production.

“I’m just looking forward to playing there very much,” says Hart, who saw U2 play at the venue. “That show gave me a lot of interesting ideas, and I kind of took some of those ideas and incorporated them into what we’re doing,”

Hart only remembers a little about the Ice Palace show other than Santana being the opener. Carlos Santana once recalled that a band member, he guessed Jerry Garcia, slipped acid into his Coca-Cola can. (“I didn’t realize it, but after the show, they put something on my Coca-Cola can. Man, it took me three days to land,” Santana said in a 2022 interview.)

“That’s the kind of place we played in those days,” Hart says. Around that time, we played in a high school auditorium in Sacramento. We opened for Cream. There were about 1,200 people, and that was another of those amazing shows to look back on.”

Hart is linked to the Strip for his work on the sound bed for the Mirage volcano show, which premiered in 2008. He recalled the Grateful Dead’s shows at Sam Boyd Stadium in the early 1990s. Sting opened for the band on May 14-16, 1993.

“Sting was out there doing his yoga, and Jerry and I were in the trailer — an air-conditioned trailer — and we were looking at Sting do his thing, and we were going, ‘Wow!’” Hart recalls. “It was amazing to watch him. So, when we went out for our show, we took a deep breath to stay focused and play. I just remember it being hilarious.”

Hart emphasizes Dead and Company, with its nostalgic roster, appreciates the groundbreaking venue.

“We used to play places like the Fillmore, and they were meant for dancing and the music of the ’40s and ’50s,” Hart says. “They are places of the past. But this is the future.”

Cool Hang Alert

Keeping with the Commercial Center (kind of), “Keith Thompson’s Piano Party” is back fro 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday. Cocktails. Food. Tony “Hilarious” Arias. Great vibe. A $10 cover. Go to thecomposersroom.com for intel.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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