“Fare Thee Well” [Blu-ray/CD] by The Grateful Dead

Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: “Fare Thee Well”
Label: Rhino Entertainment
Release Date: 11/20/2015
Genre: Rock
Rating: 4/5

Back in the Summer of 2015, the surviving members of The Grateful Dead, meaning Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreautzmann, were joined together in music with long time keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, Bruce Hornsby and Trey Anastasio for a series of shows under the “Fare Thee Well” banner. These shows would be celebrating the milestone 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead and also would be the last time that the name would be used for concerts and recording. There would be a total of five concerts with two being in California, while the remaining and final three would happen at Chicago’s Soldier Field and this Blu-ray/CD set delivers the full final performance of The Grateful Dead. Over the course of my life I didn’t initially enjoy what The Dead was all about but this was because a lot of my friends who did like them would always tell me that what I listened to sucked. My appreciation of Hard Rock and the burgeoning Metal sound found me alienating what the Dead offered up purely by association to those memories. I admit this to you readers because that was a long time ago and since that time I have learned to appreciate a whole lot of Grateful Dead music but mostly by way of the “greatest hits” that every single other casual fan might know. The concert is a long one and something like 180 minutes/three hours long and each set is delivered on separate discs. Let’s go over the first set.

The first disc opens up with numerous shots of the audience or I should say “hopeful audience” as we see lots of people looking for a single ticket to enter or looking to barter something with a fellow Deadhead with kindness in mind. I don’t think anyone was giving away tickets for this based on the historic nature and relatively high pricing of them but who knows. Perhaps some of these folks lucked out. We also hear from some older fans who were bringing younger members of their family to the show and that was quite impressive. Once the band begins we see lots of above the stadium shots and there didn’t seem to be a single space left in the place. According to my research the stadium has a capacity of over 61K and while the stage for The Dead seemed large, it wasn’t using as much geographical space as those kinds of bands that set up roller coasters or similar gigantic contraptions. The video for the first show is crystal clear and I felt that the sound was on point as well. Trey sings a lot of the numbers during the set but of course Weir does as well while Lesh and Hornsby do plenty of backup. There will be times across the show where Bruce and Phil will sing lead of course. Since this was a daylight set the video looks really great and the Blu-ray seems to do it justice. The novice listener that I am only found me knowing “Samson and Delilah” but I enjoyed the whole set. Its delivered in a very relaxed pace and there are plenty of extended jams to be enjoyed. Now onto Set 2 on the second disc.

The second set picks up with “Truckin’” and since I am the declared super casual fan of the bands expansive catalog is the next one of the only tunes across the whole show. I sang along to this one much to my neighbors and cats chagrin and found myself tapping away on the coffee table while I viewed it. There was a fireworks display shown at the beginning but part of me thinks that was done post show and only edited in to look like it was before the second, and evening set began. I’ll have to check with some folks who attended but right now I don’t have anyone to ask. I was more familiar with this set than the first and recognized “Althea” and “Terrapin Station Medley” from over the years. The tracks “Drums” and “Space” take up a healthy chunk of time during the second set and those percussionists among you might find the first part of the most interest since there is a veritable behemoth of stuff behind the two Rhythm Devils Kreautzmann and Hart and together they deliver a fascinating solo. The “Space” part is a little out there and one can find their mind wandering to faraway places based on the sounds, sights and overall vibe from this one. Weir closes up the proper set before bringing us into the first encore of the rousing “Touch Of Grey” and while this is a later catalog tune it’s one of my other favorites because it was all over MTV when it first came into the public eye. I’m sure the Dead purists of the time were as furious about that happening like the Metalheads were when Metallica’s video for “One” appeared there as well. Finally the Dead fans and Metal ones had a common bind LOL. As the song played I felt a little sad based on the realization that the bands set was almost at an end and that after this next tune a 50 year history will be put to bed in the fashion that it had been most embraced in. The band returns after a few minutes and begins a slow and somewhat somber number called “Attics of My Life” from their seminal “American Beauty” album. The audience is shown singing at a number of points and while the song plays out the images of the various members of the Grateful Dead over the course of their history are shown on large screens that flanked the stage. We see young images of Lesh and Weir and while their visuals are met with screams and applause it’s the face of the late, great Jerry Garcia, who is shown in his prime, that received what I felt was the most deafening of responses. The tune ends and the band thanks the fans for the career they were given with heartfelt words and after the necessary band and audience photos are secured we see them walking off the stage and out to the bus area. A nice finish for sure and several hours that lifelong fans will remember as long as they are here on Earth to do so.

Overall I enjoyed the whole show but felt the recording sounded a little less on the second half than the first. Maybe some of the conditions of the evening caused this. It’s not really the kind of release I would recommend to a fan such as myself since there is likely going to be so little they know either but for the ardent Deadhead and music historian this is a must have piece. The packaging is rather nice and will look excellent on your video library shelf next to other Grateful Dead releases or stuff related to the bands history should you have it. There is no booklet included but it folds out to three parts with the CD’s on the first two panels and the two Blu-ray discs on the third one. There aren’t any concert photos around the packaging but the cover logo is quite striking and a fantastic design. Thank you Grateful Dead for the music that you brought to the table and the joy that it brought to so many fans for so many years. Fare Thee Well.

Track Listing:
1. China Cat Sunflower
2. I Know You Rider
3. Estimated Prophet
4. Built to Last
5. Samson and Delilah
6. Mountains of the Moon
7. Throwing Stones
8. Truckin
9. Cassidy
10. Althea
11. Terrapin Station
12. Drums
13. Space
14. Unbroken Chain
15. Days Between
16. Not Fade Away
17. Touch of Grey
18. Attics of My Life

Official Website: http://www.dead.net

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.