After focusing on earlier numbers in the Grateful Dead repertoire, the “Fare Thee Well” ensemble settled into a groove on Sunday and never looked back.
While the first performance of the two night stint in Santa Clara, CA (and five nights overall) opened with some improvisation, Trey Anastasio kicked off night two with the thunderous opening riff of “Feels Like A Stranger”. The band hit the ground running, bringing the energy through “New Minglewood Blues”, “Brown-Eyed Women”, and “Loose Lucy”.
It was clear that the band had shaken off their first-show jitters and really settled into the music. A heartfelt rendition of “Loser” followed, with Bruce Hornsby leading the charge on vocals. “Row Jimmy” was next, punctuated by an easygoing reggae rhythm. With a couple downtempo numbers, it was Anastasio who took the mike on “Alabama Getaway”, singing gleefully and jamming along with it.
After a slowed down “Black Peter”, which featured some excellent interplay between the band members, Bob Weir brought the set home with “Hell In A Bucket”. The refrain “at least I’m enjoying the ride” echoed through the walls of Levi’s Stadium, long after the band members had retreated for a set break.
Picking right back up for set two, it was Phil Lesh who opened the second set by singing the classic, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo”. The bouncy song led to some exploratory jamming, highlighted by the quick guitarwork of Anastasio. The jam settled into a “Wharf Rat”, with Weir singing lead.
Next up was the classic “Eyes of the World”, as the band was smoothly segueing between songs and never yielding. The energy was palpable as Lesh led the charge on vocals, a surprising choice, but Lesh was up to the task. The “Eyes” jam was abrupt, but instead the tune grooved right into the classic “He’s Gone”. If there ever was a moment to reflect on the life of Jerry Garcia, it was this one. The band was playing with such soul.
That tune gave way to the infamous Drums/Space segment of the show, which featured the first guest appearance of the run. Sikiru Adepoju came out and joined drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart for the drums section, which bled into the “space” jam portion of the evening. The Drums/Space was shorter than expected, and the band broke into the song “I Need A Miracle”. Weir led the tune on vocals, and kept things going with a cover of “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”.
The whole set concluded on an upbeat note, with the timeless “Sugar Magnolia” from American Beauty. If ever there was a crowd-pleaser, this was it, and the song left everyone dancing.
To cap off their two nights in Santa Clara, the “Fare Thee Well” crew brought it all home with the beautiful song, “Brokedown Palace”. When 50,000 people sing “Fare thee well, fare thee well, I love you more than words can tell,” it is a pure and honest reminder of the true magic that is the Grateful Dead.
The band will reconvene this Friday, July 3rd, to kick off their final three-night run at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.
Setlist: Fare Thee Well/Grateful Dead at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, CA – 6/28/15
Set One: Feel Like A Stranger, New Minglewood Blues, Brown-Eyed Women, Loose Lucy, Loser, Row Jimmy, Alabama Getaway, Black Peter, Hell In A Bucket
Set Two: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo -> Wharf Rat -> Eyes of the World -> He’s Gone -> *Drums/Space -> I Need A Miracle -> Death Don’t Have No Mercy -> Sugar Magnolia
Encore: Brokedown Palace
* with Sikiru Adepoju on talking drum