They do not do what the Grateful Dead did, even though they are a "jam band" (don't like that term), they are different animals. I can see how some deadheads like them and I enjoyed the show I went to. But I find them a little formulaic in jam structure and less open and free like the Dead when they were really playing (though that happened less and less as the 80s wore on). Though I don't think of this as a better/worse thing just apples and oranges. They are very talented and have created a sound that is all their own. I have been guilty of music snobbery in the past and have tried to be conscious of not doing that now since I have small children who listen to music that I don't particularly care for but don't want to discourage them from listening and enjoying music of their own choosing. There are people who suck and get famous but most people making a living in the biz are at least competent in their own style whether it is a style that speaks to me or not. People looooove the music that they are into and trashing someone else's source of joy and inspiration whether it be the Dead, Phish, or Lady Gaga.
Love 'em. They brought the absolute heat this summer. They have changed and they are not extending typeII jams as much as the did when 2.0, but in 2.0 they couldnt nail their composed tunes either, and they are crushing that shit now. They have played 207 DIFFERENT songs this year in under 20 shows! I defy you to find a GD year that comes close to that setlist variety! Everything is a trade off. I think the summer tour that just ended is the best since summer 2000.
Being a native New Englander, I got to see them very early: 1987 as an opener for Max Creek. Loved 'em then, Love 'em now. Great guys too!