Grateful Dead Plays Final Show On This Date 25 Years Ago
Today marks 25 years since the Grateful Dead performed their final show. The July 9, 1995 concert at Soldier Field in Chicago was the last of that year’s summer tour, which was plagued by numerous incidents that led to it being known as the “Tour Of Doom.”
The Dead’s two-night stand in Chicago came after large numbers of ticketless fans showed up at the tour opener in Vermont leading to many being let in for free. Three Deadheads were later struck by lightning before one of the Dead’s shows at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. And there was the notorious gatecrashing incident at Deer Creek in Indiana on the same day guitarist Jerry Garcia was the target of a death threat.
The band canceled a second show at Deer Creek, issuing a sternly worded open letter to Deadheads before the first of two concerts at Riverport Amphitheater outside St. Louis. They then headed across Illinois to Chicago to play what became their final two shows.
Chicago’s Soldier Field holds a significant place in the history of the Grateful Dead. In July 2015, the football stadium hosted the Fare Thee Well – Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead concerts featuring Grateful Dead members – Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir – with Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti, that were billed as the final time the remaining “core four” would perform together. Soldier Field was also home, on this date in 1995, to the final time the core four, along with the late Vince Welnick would share the stage with Garcia, who died one month later, on August 9, 1995, at the age of 53.
As noted, the July 9, 1995 Dead show was the second of two consecutive nights in Chicago at the venue they first played in 1991. It’s true the two-night stand had its flaws from the stage and the band was not exactly in top form, but the performances also brought an end to a legendary 30-year career of one of the most influential rock bands in history.
The first set of the final show began with “Touch Of Grey,” giving those in attendance one last chance to sing with the band the song’s hopeful chorus “We will get by, we will survive.” Among the notable aspects of the Dead’s final set was Garcia’s poignantly delivered “So Many Roads” and the rarely played Lesh-sung “Unbroken Chain.” The encore started with Garcia leading another emotional ballad, “Black Muddy River,” followed by Lesh, in another rare move, leading a second encore as “Box Of Rain” became the ultimate song played by the Grateful Dead.
Following the encore, a large fireworks display lit up the Chicago skyline and the iconic columns of Soldier Field. Not knowing it at the time, fans in awe watching the colorful display above had just witnessed Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead’s final concert.
Video footage of the July 9 encore, the moving rendition of “Black Muddy River” that ended up being the last song Jerry sang lead on with the Dead, can be viewed below:
Audio of the band discussing the encore from their in-ear monitors surfaced a few years ago. The below audio-only clip includes some chatter before “Black Muddy River,” including bassist Phil Lesh stating “the second one’s gonna be ‘Box Of Rain.’” Listen to the rare recording of both songs that made up the finale here via TimeZonerTV:
Additional July 9, 1995 in-ear monitor discussion can be heard in the clip presented below featuring drummers Kreutzmann and Hart. The percussionists chat about the pre-drums setlist the band would soon play while also joking about the song titles, listen:
Finally, a soundboard stream of the entire July 9, 1995 concert at Soldier Field is available below as well.
Setlist (via JerryGarcia.com)
Set One: Touch Of Grey, Little Red Rooster, Lazy River Road, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Childhood’s End, Cumberland Blues, The Promised Land
Set Two: Shakedown Street, Samson & Delilah, So Many Roads, Samba In The Rain, Corinna > Drums > Space > Unbroken Chain > Sugar Magnolia
Encore: Black Muddy River > Box Of Rain
More Grateful Dead on JamBase
[A portion of the above article was excerpted from this article, originally published on July 9, 2016 and updated in 2019.]