All eyes in Chicago (and basically the entire music world) may be on this summer’s “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead” shows coming to Soldier Field July 3-5, but considering they all sold out in a nanosecond, the fifth annual installment of the band’s “Meet-Up at the Movies” may as well have been the next best scenario. This particular edition marked the first in tandem with Fathom Events’ “Classic Music Series” (also the home to recent Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin screenings), and offered not only the chance to see a key line-up brought back to life, but also unearthed previously unreleased concert footage from July 19, 1989.
For those who didn’t see the show in person (or pick up a bootleg along the way), the broadcast kept fans guessing with freewheeling versions of collective favorites like “Hell In A Bucket,” “Althea” and “Terrapin Station” (amongst many others).
Those who populated ShowPlace ICON at Roosevelt Collection (along with many other locations across Chicago), probably noticed the familiar setting of Alpine Valley, our neighbors to the north in East Troy, Wisconsin. In fact, the scenic venue is no stranger to Dead dates, most notably, the sight of the “Downhill From Here” DVD (which chronicled the July 17 visit), though given the group’s radically different song selection every night of its existence, both deserved to be committed to film (even if the “Meet Up” movie was subject to the technological and production limitations of the time, which became all the more apparent when blown up on a big screen).
While casual onlookers may have turned up to hear more familiar material like “Truckin,'” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Touch of Grey” or “Not Fade Away,” July 19 seemed sculpted for the true Dead Heads, many of whom came to the well populated theatre proudly displaying old tour shirts and accessories. Such dedication was rewarded in spades thanks to a double act jam session from Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Brent Mydland, all pumped up through a state of the art sound system.
For those who didn’t see the show in person (or pick up a bootleg along the way), the broadcast kept fans guessing as everyone unfurled freewheeling versions of collective favorites like “Hell In A Bucket,” “Althea” and “Terrapin Station” (amongst many others). The new at the time “Built To Last” album also earned somewhat rare representation through “Victim Or The Crime” and “Foolish Heart,” while Garcia’s showcased his own “Sugaree,” “Deal” and “The Wheel,” alongside Weir’s “Mexicali Blues” and “Looks Like Rain.”
Even covers of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew” were completely transformed under the Dead’s spell and served as a testament to the players’ prodigious mastery of pretty much any genre. A single encore of Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light” capped off the near three hour night, which wasn’t just the most generous helping in the “Classic Music Series” thus far, but the ultimate primer for this summer’s culmination of the longest, strangest trip in rock history.