Grateful Dead Hit Emotional Peak for Final ‘Fare Thee Well’ Concert: Set List and Photos
The final night of the revamped Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well concerts in Chicago was an emotional evening filled with the kind of surprises, hits and misses that fans have come to expect. The July 5 set list included many songs that hadn't made it to any of the other Fare Thee Well shows.
“China Cat Sunflower” opened the concert, with Phish frontman Trey Anastasio taking over the lead-vocal spot from the late Jerry Garcia. It bounced along with its usual pairing with “I Know You Rider,” one of the oldest tunes in the Dead’s enormous catalog. “Estimated Prophet,” which many fans were surprised didn't show up in the Santa Clara set lists last weekend, followed, and its arrival so early in the show, as well as the fact that it didn't inspire any great jamming, made it feel like an obligatory inclusion rather than an inspired one.
The first real surprise of the night came in the form of pianist Bruce Hornsby’s delightful take on the song “Built to Last,” the title cut of the Grateful Dead’s final studio album. Up to this point, the song has had a relatively brief track record, played only in 1989 and 1990, but its inclusion last night was a revelation.
Bob Weir and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann led the band through a stomping rendition of “Samson & Delilah” (which the Grateful Dead typically performed at concerts that fell on Sunday) before Phil Lesh sang a beautifully spacey “Mountains of the Moon” (from 1969’s Aoxomoxoa). Bathed in blue and violet lights, Lesh's lead was accompanied by Hornsby and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, both of whom provided a delicate web of ethereal notes that weaved through the layers of sound.
“Truckin’,” a repeat from Santa Clara, opened the second set in a rollicking version that served as an interesting contrast to the song's first appearance at Levi’s Stadium on June 27. The song sailed into a tight version of Weir’s “Cassidy” before the band nailed the ending jam during the finale.
Anastasio also stepped up for another Garcia tune, “Althea,” from 1980’s Go to Heaven. He utilizing a classic Garcia guitar tone to provide an appropriately laid-back vibe, but its strange placement in an otherwise emotionally heavy second set felt like a wasted opportunity. If the Dead had swapped “Althea” for “Estimated Prophet" here, the pacing would have worked better. Then again, much of the mystery and surprise at these shows is hearing some familiar songs in unusual places.
Then, as the first notes of “Terrapin Station” rose gently into the summer night, the crowd roared with approval. Lesh took over lead vocals during the “Lady With a Fan” section with Weir leading the second part. As the song faded, Kreutzmann and Hart took center stage. The latter strapped on a harness fitted with train horns (Deadheads may remember them from 1992, when they signaled the arrival of “Casey Jones”) and blew several long blasts.
“Unbroken Chain” rose from the misty waves of “Space.” A fan favorite for years, the jazzy and haunting "Chain" originally appeared on 1974's From the Mars Hotel, but wasn't performed live for the first time until 1995. “Days Between” followed, with Weir delivering each plaintive line like a call from beyond (the ghostly song was one of the last that Garcia and Robert Hunter wrote together).
It's one of the deepest and darkest cuts in the Dead catalog, its lyrics painting a grim landscape where “summer flies and August dies, and the world grows dark and mean.” Still, the song’s soaring finale offer “all we ever wanted was to learn and love and grow ... [we] gave the best we had to give, how much we’ll never know,” lines that seemed appropriate here.
A rocking “Not Fade Away” cleared away "Days"' gloom and featured a rave-up between Weir and Anastasio, who traded guitar licks. As the audience clapped along to the Bo Diddley beat and chanted along to the song's refrain, band members dropped out one by one, until only the drummers remained. After they left the stage, fans kept chanting "not fade away” until the group returned for “Touch of Grey,” the band’s only Top 10 hit. Anastasio and Hornsby each took a verse here, with everyone joining in on the choruses and coda.
“Attics of My Life” -- an American Beauty track that's filled with as much longing, love and bittersweet joy as any Dead song -- ended the night with Weir strumming an acoustic guitar while harmonizing with Lesh and Anastasio. And that's how, fittingly, Fare Thee Well ended. As Lesh sang during Friday night's performance of “Box of Rain,” “All a dream we dreamed, one afternoon, long ago … ”
Grateful Dead, July 5, 2015, Chicago Set List
"China Cat Sunflower"
"I Know You Rider"
"Built to Last"
"Samson & Delilah"
"Mountains of the Moon"
"Not Fade Away"
"Touch of Grey"
"Attics of My Life"