Grateful Dead 2016 Meet-Up at the Movies: Sullivan Stadium, MA – 07/02/89 Review

Hosted by Fathom Events and Rhino Entertainment at theaters across the country, the sixth annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies presented the band’s performance at Sullivan Stadium, MA on July 2, 1989, which happened 17 days before the Alpine Valley concert shown at the 2015 Meet Up. While the line-up was the same (guitarist Jerry Garcia, drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, bassist Phil Lesh, keyboardist Brent Mydland, and guitarist Bob Weir), the setlist didn’t repeat one song.

After a promo piece for the new Grateful Dead July 1978: The Complete Recordings, which presents five complete shows on 12 discs, and the band tuning up, they start with “Playing in the Band.” The drums shine on the first bridge, as does Garcia when he leads the jam. They transition into “Crazy Fingers,” a slow tempo song that meanders, but picks up the pace as it transitions into their cover of Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.” Weir’s gruff vocals paired with Mydland’s backing howls strike a great balance. The latter’s organ, Garcia’s riffs, and Lesh’s bass really stand out.

On “We Can Run,” the only track from their months-away-from-being-released final studio album, Built to Last, features Mydland singing and his ’80s-era keys. Co-written with lyricist John Perry Barlow, it calls attention to caring for the planet. The crowd gives a shout of approval once Garcia plays the opening guitar notes of toe-tapper “Tennessee Jed,” which is followed by Weir handling another cover, “Queen Jane Approximately,” the first Bob Dylan song of the night.

Must have been a hot summer day as a hose sprays a portion of the crowd in front of the stage after “To Lay Me Down,” which being a slow dirge might also have contributed to people’s sluggishness. The first set closes out with the upbeat two-fer of “Cassidy” and their take on the traditional “Don’t Ease Me In.” Unfortunately rather than allow the movie audience a similar break, the video finds them quickly back with wonderful version of “Friend of the Devil” that finds Weir split for a bit during the jam.

During the classic “Truckin’,” the crowd is at its most exuberant, singing along and shouting its loudest in agreement every time the lyric, “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” is sung. The band segues into an extended “He’s Gone” with the lyric that became a mantra for many Deadhead during troubled times, “Nothing left to do but/ smile, smile, smile”. The band plays a slow, soft fade out of the song as the crowd claps along.

After “Eyes of the World,” Hart and Krutzelman are left alone to handle “Drums.” One cameraperson got a great shot of the surface of a kettledrum that looked like rippling water after Hart struck it. In addition to traditional drums and cymbals, there are electronic pads and Hart plays a string instrument in a percussive manner. The twosome leaves as Garcia, Mydland, and Weir take over, later joined by Lesh, for “Space.” During both sessions, the musicians create interesting sounds but there’s little cohesion for very long, which becomes quite clear as the entire band turns their jamming into “The Wheel.”

The second set closes out with a run through of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” with Mydland on lead. The music builds to a marvelous crescendo before becoming The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” although Mydland continues singing “Fantasy” lyrics. After the video’s credits, the band encored with another Dylan song, “Quinn the Eskimo,” but by ending the performance with it, I suspect everyone who wanted to had already dosed.

I was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the end when the program cut to HD video of Dead & Company playing “Franklin’s Tower” in concert. The bass was much more prominent in the modern mix. Weir’s vocals sounded weak, which was understandable since he’s no longer that man from 1989.

It was another great Meet Up by Fathom Events, Rhino Entertainment, and the Grateful Dead. I am already anticipating next year’s event and am curious from when in the band’s history it will be taken.

Listen to a bootleg:

First Set:
Playin’ In The Band
Crazy Fingers
Wang Dang Doodle
We Can Run But We Can’t Hide
Tennessee Jed
Queen Jane Approximately
To Lay Me Down
Don’t Ease Me In

Second Set:
Friend Of The Devil
He’s Gone
Eyes Of The World
The Wheel
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Hey Jude Reprise
Sugar Magnolia

The Mighty Quinn

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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