Setlist & Recap | Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead 50 Continues
After an impressive start to Fare Thee Well -Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead on Friday, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart and Bob Weir returned to Soldier Field in Chicago with keyboardists Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti as well as Phish frontman Trey Anastasio for the second show of the highly anticipated three-night run on Saturday night.
Before the run began, President Barack Obama issued a statement describing the Grateful Dead as “an iconic American Band that embodies the creativity, passion and ability to bring people together that makes American music so great.” So it’s fitting the members of this “iconic American band” plotted their final shows together around Independence Day. Deadheads from around the U.S.A. and well beyond have descended upon Chicago for the run making for an International crowd heavy on those from out of town. Attendees have been swapping stories, making new friends and meeting up with old friends all weekend long in The Windy City.
Just as with on Friday, the energy in Soldier Field was far beyond any typical concert as many of those in attendance spent an ungodly amount of time and money making their Chicago trip a reality. On Saturday, the members of the Dead and their ensemble paid off those efforts in spades once again. The band came out of the gates with “Shakedown Street.” Weir handled lead vocals on the title track from the Grateful Dead’s 1978 studio album, while Anastasio utilized an envelope filter effect just as Jerry Garcia did on GD versions of the tune. Both Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti joined Trey in taking solos during the slow-paced “Shakedown” leading up to its “just gotta poke around” vocal breakdown. After the final chorus, Anastasio connected with Lesh and Chimenti, in particular, on the evening’s first jam.
The band went the patriotic route for the second song of the evening and the first song of Fare Thee Well debuted in the ’90s by the Grateful Dead, Garcia/Hunter’s “Liberty.” Bobby’s vocals sounded strong as he growled away on “Liberty.” Trey Anastasio fronted the septet on “Standing On The Moon,” another song with fitting lyrics for Independence Day from the Dead’s later years. Anastasio handled Jerry’s vocals and solo with aplomb as Chimenti added beautiful swirls of organ to the mix. Next, Weir stepped to the forefront for John Phillips’ “Me & My Uncle,” the song the Grateful Dead played more than any other in their 30-year touring career. Bobby was also tasked with singing the “Tennessee Jed” which followed and engaged in a bit of guitar duel with Anastasio. “Tennesse Jed” led into “Cumberland Blues,” the first repeat of Fare Thee Well. The pace was then slowed down as Weir busted out his slide to lead the musicians on “Little Red Rooster,” a blues standard the Dead supposedly performed at their first show in 1965 and most definitely performed at their final show which was held at Soldier Field on July 9, 1995.
Phil Lesh took his first turn on lead vocals of the night during “Friend Of A Devil.” The band played “Friend Of The Devil” at a tempo more similar to early Dead versions than the slow-paced renditions favored in later years. Lesh even snuck in the fifth verse Hunter wrote that Jerry prefered not to perform. A “Deal” sung by Anastasio and Hornsby brought the first set to a close. “Deal” featured Trey’s most frenetic, fast-paced solos of the set as he shredded away on his Languedoc.
Once again the capacity crowd and those watching the live stream were treated to more original music from Neal Casal during the hour-long intermission. The 70,000+ in attendance also could view a fireworks display at nearby Navy Pier in the skies above Soldier Field at setbreak. When the band returned for the second set shortly before 10 p.m. local time, they let “Bird Song” fly. Phil Lesh sang “Bird Song,” which featured a string of gorgeous, Jerry-esque riffs from Anastasio, spacey synth riffs from Chimenti and barrelhouse piano work from Hornsby.
Next up was “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” a song Jerry Garcia wrote about the Haight hippie scene that The Grateful Dead only played a handful of times in 1967. Bruce Hornsby and Trey Anastasio fronted the group on the obscurity. The Phish guitarist used a beefy, octave-divided tone on the Phish-y “Golden Road” jam. Mickey Hart donned a sailor’s hat which could only mean one thing, “Lost Sailor,” yet another song performed at Fare Thee Well that the Grateful Dead stopped playing long before Jerry died (“Lost Sailor” was last performed March 24, 1986). When The Dead did play “Lost Sailor” it would segue into “Saint Of Circumstance” as it did on Saturday night in Chicago. Anastasio’s months of practice and study continued to pay dividends all night, especially on the “Lost Sailor” > “Saint Of Circumstance” sequence, which contained nary a missed note.
Bruce Hornsby stepped into the spotlight to sing “West L.A. Fadeaway” as the second set rolled on. “West L.A.” also featured an impressive piano solo from Hornsby. If Friday was about Trey Anastasio stepping more comfortably into his role with the band the same could be said for Bruce Hornsby on Saturday night. Once again the Fare Thee Well band called upon Jerry’s late year output for a “Foolish Heart” sung by the Phish guitarist with a blissful end jam that featured impressive interplay between Hornsby, Anastasio and Lesh. Trey, Bruce, Bob, Jeff and Phil then vacated the stage for Billy and Mickey’s “Drums” segment. Satuday’s “Drums” had a more tribal feel than past Fare Thee Well “Drums.” Hart continued strumming “The Beam” as the instrumentalists returned and “Space” began. The free-form “Space” saw Phil pluck spooky melodies while Anastasio and Weir played with every delay effect in their rigs and Chimenti fire up his lone synthesizer. Out of the darkness “Stella Blue” emerged. Bob Weir passionately sang the Jerry ballad that contained two powerful solos from Trey. The expected “One More Saturday Night” brought the second set to a close.
The smart money was on “U.S. Blues” serving as the encore for Fare Thee Well’s July 4th show and those who bet on the tune ending the night won out. “U.S. Blues” came after Phil Lesh delivered his “Donor Rap” imploring fans to donate their organs as his life was saved by a liver transplant he received in 1998. The lights at the Empire State Building’s LED tower were synchronized to the band’s live performance of “U.S. Blues.” ESB lighting designer Marc Brickman teamed up with the band to create the vision and technical design of the music-to-light show, which featured an assortment of Grateful Dead imagery in the mast of the building. The feat will be repeated for New Yorkers featuring a “U.S. Blues” soundtrack on Q104.3 radio at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday night.
Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart will share the stage one final time on Sunday night at Soldier Field.
Set One: Shakedown Street, Liberty, Standing On The Moon, Me & My Uncle, Tennessee Jed, Cumberland Blues, Little Red Rooster, Friend Of The Devil, Deal
Set Two: Bird Song, The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance, West L.A. Fadeaway, Foolish Heart, Drums > Space > Stella Blue > One More Saturday Night
Encore: U.S. Blues
Head here to purchase and watch video-on-demand of all five Fare Thee Well performances for $49.95.