On a steaming hot midsummer night in 1987, two legendary names in the music world combined forces to deliver three sets of music to a ravenous crowd in the swamps of New Jersey, locally known as the Meadowlands. The Grateful Dead’s 1987 Summer Tour included six shows that would see Bob Dylan accompany them for an extra set of music each night. Later immortalized through the live release Dylan & The Dead, these shows featured some Dylan-penned songs that would remain on the Grateful Dead’s live playlist for years to come.
Those who survived this unseasonably warm and muggy day were treated to three sets of music from some of the best in the business. The temperature and conditions were such a concern that concertgoers near the front of the stage were literally hosed down in an effort to cool off both before the show and during sets. So on a day where shade was at a premium, the festivities fittingly kicked off with “Hell in a Bucket,” and the show was off and running.
The rest of the first set resembled a fairly common one for this era of the band. Classics like “Loser” and “Greatest Story Ever Told” mixed with contemporary tunes like the Brent Mydland-helmed “Tons of Steel,” which would only be played five more times after this. There’s an incredibly jazzy version of everyone’s favorite Dead crowd PSA, “Take a Step Back.” And an atypical placement of “Bertha” in the first set closer’s spot seemed to energize the whole stadium and created a palpable buzz between sets.
The second set picks up right where its predecessor left off with another interesting placement thanks to an opening “Morning Dew” that was preceded by a little “Addam’s Family”-themed tuning. The rest of the set continued to serve as a traditionalist’s dream with an electric “Playin’ in the Band” and a thunderous “The Other One” before the crowd serenaded the band off the stage with the traditional lyrics from Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.”
But instead of an encore to follow, there was an entire third set to be had first and this one would see Bob Dylan play in front of, arguably, one of the greatest backing bands in rock. While it may not have evoked the same widespread energy levels of the earlier sets, this one would serve as foresight to some degree for the Dead and give a glimpse of what was to come.
While they had been debuted earlier in the tour, this collaborative set of music would only be the third time that the band would attempt live performances of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and “Queen Jane Approximately.” Both of these songs would continue to be played for the rest of the Dead’s touring career, with “Queen Jane” even making an appearance at the band’s last show in July of 1995.
Fans were also treated to Jerry Garcia jumping on the pedal steel and showing off his chops on “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” Songs were kept mostly straightforward in this set, absent of the long, psychedelic journeys which typically accentuate a Dead show. But it surely must have been a treat to see the band backup the legendary Dylan on numbers like “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” (a song the Dead used to actually cover in the late ’60s) and “All Along the Watchtower.” The encore was a double bill as well as renditions of Touch of Grey, the Dead’s latest “hit” single, and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” sent a packed Giants Stadium crowd back to reality and into the hot summer night.
Watch the entire third set and encore with Dylan:
The Grateful Dead with Bob Dylan 7/12/87 Giants Stadium – East Rutherford, NJ
Set 1: Hell In A Bucket, West L.A. Fadeaway, Greatest Story Ever Told, Loser, Tons Of Steel, Ramble On Rose, When I Paint My Masterpiece, When Push Comes To Shove, Promised Land-> Bertha
Set 2: Morning Dew, Playin’ In The Band-> Drums-> Jam-> The Other One-> Stella Blue-> Throwing Stones-> Not Fade Away
Set 3: Slow Train, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Tomorrow Is A Long Time*, Highway 61 Revisited, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Ballad Of A Thin Man, John Brown, The Wicked Messenger, Queen Jane Approximately, Chimes Of Freedom, Joey, All Along The Watchtower, Times They Are A Changin’
E: Touch Of Grey-> Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
*Jerry Garcia on pedal steel