Today in Grateful Dead History: July 24, 1987 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA

Dancing Skeletons

The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan played a six concert mini-tour during the summer of 1987.  The Dead were ramping up again after Jerry’s 1986 coma and were playing some incredibly energetic and entertaining shows.  Bob Dylan was being late 80’s Bob Dylan.

Two years after these shows, the Dead released the album Dylan and the Dead that was culled from these shows.  It remains underwhelming, to say the least.  That’s why it’s nice to have these shows preserved in full on the Archive – you get a much better sense of what the concerts were about and the performance, while still ragged, has a much more organic feel.

This show started with a two-set full Grateful Dead show.  The first set, in particular, stands out with uptempo and well-played versions of Big River, Cassidy and Deal.  The band keeps up the pace in the second set with a groovy (if sloppy) Scarlet Begonias>Playin’ in the Band and, following Drums/Space, a serviceable Uncle John’s Band that really gets moving until Brent abruptly drags the band into Dear Mr. Fantasy.  As if to make up for the misstep, all involved play the hell out of the tune.  After a few more songs, including an unusual late second set Bertha, we take a short break and then get the Dylan set with the Dead playing backup.

Much has been written about Dylan during this period – how awful his voice was, how disinterested he was, etc . . . None of that matters here.  In Chronicles, Dylan credits the Grateful Dead with revitalizing his sound by forcing him to play rarities with new arrangements on this tour, something he continues to do to this day on his own never ending tour.  So yeah, haters can complain about Dylan’s crummy voice, but that’s not the point – it’s the music and the music the Dead is playing is interesting stuff.

Highlights of the Dylan set include the opening The Times They Are A Changing, spread out with Jerry noodling behind the band and I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight which sees Jerry breaking out the pedal steel guitar for the first time since the New Riders of the Purple Sage days of the early 70’s.  Ballad of a Thin Man is a slow burning procession and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door seems like it will go on forever, in a good way.  I think the most interesting part of the set is Shelter From the Storm.  The Dead kick into a very interesting and, dare I say, funky rhythm and Dylan doesn’t keep up.  But after the first couple of verses, Jerry takes a solo and when Dylan comes back in, he’s right on target, vocally.  It’s a fun ride.

Don’t listen to this show expecting 1966 era Bob Dylan – you’re not going to get it.  But if you keep an open mind, this will be a good time and an interesting listen, especially if you follow where Dylan’s gone since then.

Here’s the link to the audience recording of the entire show:

I suggest that you switch over to this soundboard for the Dylan stuff (this link is only the Dylan set):


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