Smack in the middle of a five-night run at The Garden, only 10 weeks after the release of their most commercially successful album, In The Dark, The Grateful Dead hit the stage on September 18th, 1987 opening with a lively rendition of Dark’s “Hell In A Bucket”. It seemed immediately evident that this show would be something special. But after a relatively short, 45-minute first set, the crowd was left wondering what was yet to come.
With a nod to the Big Apple, the Dead opened with a tough and funky “Shakedown Street” that gets the crowd dancing and clapping. Then “Women Smarter” sets up “Terrapin” and we’re off… Drums > Space follows and “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” brings us back slowly as if to say more is on the way.
Yes, some criticism of the shows of 1987 is that it felt like the band often left something on the table, so to speak. The shows are sometimes criticized for being easy and complacent, influenced by the band’s newfound commercial success and sudden addition of a new, wider audience.
Though, from another perspective, the band was rejuvenated. On July 10th, 1986 Jerry Garcia had fallen ill and lapsed into a diabetic coma. Waking five days later, Garcia had to relearn many of his motor skills, including how to play the guitar. Many friends and fans had thought they lost Garcia forever. Six months later, the band was back in the studio recording In The Dark, featuring the commercially successful “Touch of Grey”, with which the band chose to open this five-night MSG run as nearly 20,000 concertgoers sang along: “I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive.”
Serious stuff, man.