Top 10 Grateful Dead ‘Fare Thee Well’ Performances
The Grateful Dead's Fare Thee Well performances totaled 82 songs during their five concerts. Two of the songs ("Cumberland Blues" and "Truckin'") played on June 27 in Santa Clara were repeated at Soldier Field in Chicago a week later. But that still leaves 80 songs from the Grateful Dead's vast catalog to cover a 50-year legacy. Even though Phil Lesh and Bob Weir have kept many of the songs in rotation with their side bands over the years (as well as in their collaborative ensemble Furthur), each night of the recent reunion shows hinged on the sheer excitement of wondering what song would surface next. There were few covers -- besides the expected staples like "Me and My Uncle," "Viola Lee Blues" and "Morning Dew" -- and none written by the late keyboardists Brent Myland and Vince Welnick. Which left room for plenty of classics. These were the Top 10 Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well Performances.
Bruce Hornsby's reading of "Built to Last," an often-overlooked song from an equally overlooked album, was a surprise in the middle of July 5's first set. Backed by Jeff Chimenti's classic B3 and punctuated by a cracking solo from Trey Anastasio, "Built to Last" was a reminder that even the Grateful Dead's later years were filled with great songs.
There was a time in Grateful Dead history when the pairing of "Lost Sailor" and "St. of Circumstance" showed up in the set list almost every night. It wore down longtime fans as well as band members. "Sailor" eventually dropped out of sight, but "Saint of Circumstance" remained an enjoyable second-set favorite. Hearing Bob Weir perform the sequence on July 4 was breathtaking, and reaffirmed what a powerhouse songwriting team he and lyricist John Perry Barlow were.
"Dark Star" had long served the Dead as a vehicle for cosmic improvisations, and on Fare Thee Well's first night, it also served as a proving ground for hired-guns Trey Anastasio and Jeff Chimenti. Bruce Hornsby, who had done time in the band in 1990 and 1991 knew his way around "Star," but this night's version, with the musicians all finding their way together in a wild and deep jam, was exhilarating to witness.
If anyone had any apprehensions about Trey Anastasio's ability to fit in as a lead guitarist with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, you only need to listen to his first solo in a rousing version of "Jack Straw." Anastasio managed to find a voice over the five nights that was separate from his work with Phish and totally distinct from the late Jerry Garcia's style.
Bob Weir nailed the impassioned vocals on this Grateful Dead anthem of redemption. But it's Jeff Chimenti's swirling organ that gave the song a spiritual lift.
With Trey Anastasio taking over lead vocals on "Scarlet" and Bruce Hornsby on "Fire," this pairing highlighted Chicago's first night. Even though "Fire" featured a few ragged sections, the spirited jam that bridges the two songs was well worth the bumps.
By Chicago's second night, "Shakedown Street" was pegged as the opener, and what a version we got. Trey Anastasio's played a funky vintage effect on his guitar while Phil Lesh's nimble bass shook the very core of Soldier Field.
Phil Lesh's voice is often a point of contention for some fans, but his well-worn vocals lent a grave and wistful longing to the first half of Sunday's much-anticipated "Terrapin Station." Bob Weir sang the other half -- along with almost everyone in the audience during the goose-bump-inducing refrain.
"Not Fade Away" closed out the second set on the final night in Chicago, and everyone got a chance to shine, including the fans, who continued to chant "You know our love will not fade away" after the band had left the stage. The perfect love letter from the group to the Deadheads and back again.
Even though the encore of "Ripple" on July 3 in Chicago and the final encore of "Attics of My Life" on July 5 were both emotional tearjerkers, the sweetest send-off came on June 28 in Santa Clara. Inside the colossal Levi's Stadium, just 12 miles south of where Bob Weir first met Jerry Garcia in Dana Morgan's Music Store, the Grateful Dead sang their hometown crowd home with the blessing "Fare thee well / I love you more than words can tell ... "