When Dead & Company‘s final tour was announced last October, it left fans with a mix of emotions: surprise at the unexpected decision to stop, excitement for one last tour, and above all, puzzlement as to why they would suddenly call it quits. When drummer Bill Kreutzmann subsequently announced that he would sit out the final tour, it raised even more questions. Now that the final shows of the final tour have come and gone, fans are still unsure what the future of the band might hold. Is this the end? Are they done for good, or was this just the last proper tour? And the question remains, why stop now? What precipitated this decision, and is it too late to change their minds?
Members of the band have individually hinted at their thoughts on the band’s future throughout the final tour. Mickey Hart, for instance, said in a recent interview, “Who knows what the next page is, we’re just turning the page,” adding, “It’s not final anything. We never said we’ll never play again, but we’ll never tour again.”
Oteil Burbridge later commented when asked why the band was stopping, “Excellent question. And one that no one seems to have an answer for.”
John Mayer wrote in his post-tour reflections that “Dead & Company is still a band – we just don’t know what the next show will be.” He went on to say, “I speak for us all when I say that I look forward to being shown the next shaft of light… I know we will all move towards it together. This band changed my life, and I love you all for it. An incredible tour, an unforgettable ride, and a beautiful world of memories to visit. I’ll be seeing you….”
Despite these scattered clues, the band itself has left few breadcrumbs to aid speculation—but screw it, let’s speculate.
Farewell tours typically serve as last hurrahs, offering fans one last chance to see their favorite artists perform before they retire for good. Dead & Company’s Final Tour was never billed as a farewell tour, however, just the “final tour.” That means the band could perform individual shows, multi-night runs, extended residencies, festival appearances, or even its annual Mexican destination event, Playing In The Sand—anything that couldn’t be called a tour—and still be within that theoretical boundary. The prospect of future Dead & Company performances seems pretty good given what members of the band have said, which begs the more fundamental question, why stop touring?
It is likely that the band’s decision to stop touring and Bill’s decision to sit out the final tour were somehow related. He indicated that he would not participate in the tour due to “a shift in creative direction,” which is puzzling since he and his Grateful Dead bandmates have been playing the same music together for nearly 60 years, and with Dead & Company since 2015. Fans have speculated that the band’s slower tempos in recent years were due to Bill’s influence, and that that had something to do with the split, citing the quicker tempos on the final tour as proof, but it’s quite possible that he had completely different reasons. We may never know for sure.
If Bill was the sole or main reason for the band’s decision to stop touring, then it is possible that the group could change course and decide to continue on without him, as it did on the final tour. Jay Lane did a stellar job filling in on the band’s last outing, and while the loss of Bill’s singular drumming style should not be glossed over, the tour proved that the band could conjure improvisational magic just as easily with his replacement, so why not continue touring?
Another possibility is that John Mayer decided he has had his fill of the whole Grateful Dead trip and/or is ready to focus on his career as a solo artist. Last year he mounted his first-ever solo acoustic arena tour, which turned out to be a bit of a breakthrough for him, allowing him to connect with his fans more intimately than ever before (one wonders how his experience improvising for Deadheads might have influenced his approach to that connection). If Mayer, not Kreutzmann, was the sole or main reason behind Dead & Company’s decision to stop touring, the band could theoretically continue on without him too, though that might require forming a new project with a new name due to his standing role as a major shareholder in the business.
Bob Weir also may have decided it was time to move on. He has shown multi-faceted ambition with his recent creative endeavors, including improvising with a full orchestra and leading his ever-evolving Americana outfit, Wolf Bros. While we can be sure he’ll continue playing Grateful Dead songs, he could be done playing them to stadium crowds as he did decades ago with the original band. He is one member that Dead & Company probably could not survive without, though he himself has suggested otherwise.
One last obvious factor is the band members’ advanced age. In a candid new interview, the band’s co-manager, Irving Azoff explained, “Touring is physically hard and nobody wants anybody to get really sick out there.” He went on to reference Bill Kreutzmann’s absence at several shows in recent years due to health issues.
“Billy (Kreutzmann) got really sick last year, and I think that freaked [co-managers] Steve (Moir) and I and Bernie (Cahill) out,” he said before admitting, “If it would have been this year, rather than last, you’d look at it and say, ‘Hey, maybe this shouldn’t be over,’ but look, Mickey is a wonderful soul and a lovely guy and he can say, ‘I can go forever,’ and Bob would say the same thing, but the rigors of 30-some nights with trucks and buses and airplanes and all the moving around, probably for both the quality of the music and the health/safety it was time to at least put an end to the touring.
“These guys love each other and the music stands for itself,” he continued before suggesting that the band would be open to future offers to perform. “The touring parts are over, but there are still special events I’m sure will get offered to them, and you never say never. I’ve learned from managing the Eagles all these years that you never ask that question while the tour is going on. You’ve got to let them finish it, get some rest and get back to their lives and the future will bring what it brings.”
Bob, Mickey, and Bill show no signs of giving up life on the road despite their age, but it is possible they intend to follow the lead of their core four compatriot Phil Lesh and dial back their travels. That said, Bob Weir didn’t even wait 48 hours after Dead & Company’s final bow before announcing new tour dates with Wolf Bros. The sledge hammer-wielding Instagram fitness guru that Bobby’s become is a far cry from the feeble guitarist who collapsed on stage with Furthur in 2013. His health might have made him a liability back then, but at 75, he seems more focused than ever and perfectly capable physically and musically, as he proved over the past few months.
Dead & Company’s final tour was their most successful to date, grossing $115 million and breaking numerous records. More importantly, the band reached new musical heights and strengthened its connections to its fans. There are creative reasons to continue on, then, in addition to the obvious financial incentive. Of course, another tour would inevitably be perceived as a “cash grab” since they made a big deal about this being the final one, but maybe things are significantly different now, after the final tour, than they were back in 2022. Or maybe the band really is done touring, but with some other plans up its sleeve. Or maybe Dead & Company has just run its course, though it sure doesn’t feel like it.
Only one thing is certain. The Grateful Dead, its fans, and its legacy are better off now than they were in 2015. Eight years of Dead & Company have elevated the band to new cultural relevancy, strengthened the Deadhead community, and helped ensure that the band’s music will endure for generations to come—and that’s a lot to be grateful for.
With rumors of a GD60 anniversary celebration in 2025 and Bob Weir & Wolf Bros tour dates on the horizon, there is plenty of music to fill the air, and no matter what the future holds, you know this band will not fade away.