It only took 21 years, but by the time March 1995 rolled around the Grateful Dead had decided it was finally time to deliver the debut live performance of Phil Lesh‘s smooth-rock ballad, “Unbroken Chain”, during a performance at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA.

The easygoing song, co-written and sung by Lesh, originally appeared on the Dead’ 1974 From the Mars Hotel studio album, though it would take over two decades for “Unbroken Chain” to make its live debut on March 19th, 1995.

Related: Listen To Bob Weir’s Isolated Guitar Parts From Grateful Dead’s Final Show At Berkeley’s Greek Theatre In 1989 [Full-Show Video]

The band delivered the debut of the musically complex original halfway through the first set of their performance at the old Philadephia sports arena. The song followed “Don’t Ease Me In”, and the audience erupted into massive applause of approval as the band started into the gradual introduction of the song, nearly drowning out Lesh’s singing by the time he reached the start of the first verse. Many Deadheads would agree that the band was on their last legs by this time, as decades of life on the road to go with Jerry Garcia‘s deteriorating health took its toll on the quality of the Dead’s performances by 1995. That didn’t stop the band from fully exploring the song to its utmost potential, however, as the addition of a new (old) song in the live arsenal must have triggered a sense of new creativity in some way.

As specifies, the song remained in the live repertoire throughout what would be their final year of touring leading up to Garcia’s death on August 9th, 1995, including the penultimate spot in the second set of their last-ever show at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 9th.

Revisit the band’s thrilling live debut of “Unbroken Chain” on March 19th, 1995 below.

Grateful Dead – The Spectrum – Philadelphia, PA – 3/19/95

[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]

[Originally published 3/19/22]