Grateful Dead: 9/18/1987

This was one of the best Grateful Dead concerts I have ever seen. But before I get into the details of this show, I want to share what happened the day before.

The band was taking a night off after the second Madison Square Garden show, so Julie, Miriam and I decided to cruise around the city for a bit and see the sights. While we were on the subway, I noticed a crazy person get on at one of the stops. He was looking around for someone to mess with, so I avoided eye contact, but kept him in my sights. Well, some poor schmuck seated near the doors must have made eye contact with this nutbag, because he laid into him.

“What the fuck are you looking at? You want my fuckin’ shirt? Huh? You want my shirt? I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!”

The poor dude was obviously taken aback and calmly offered his seat to the crazy guy. This only escalated the situation.

“I don’t want your fuckin’ seat! You want my fuckin’ shirt? I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!”

The train pulled to a stop at the next station, and the poor victim got up and made a quick exit, but not quick enough. Crazy dude followed him off the train.

“Hey! Come back here! I’ll kick your ass! Want my fuckin’ shirt…”

And the abuse trailed off as the doors closed and the train pulled away. I felt sorry for the guy who was being harassed, but was very grateful that we avoided the wrath of Crazy Shirt Dude.

Anyway, the next day, we were back to seeing the Dead. For this night, we had seats to the left of the stage, affectionately known as the Phil Zone. While we were hanging out, we noticed a person near us frequently checking his watch and marking down notes in a notebook. The first set started, and we danced and had a great time, but we kept noticing this guy with his watch and notebook. Now, I’m used to people writing down setlists, but this seemed a little extra.

After a somewhat short first set, the lights came up and the guy was busy again checking his watch and making notes. We asked if he was keeping the setlist, and he explained that he was timing everything. He then went on to explain in painful detail all the timing of the first set: what time the lights went down, what time the band came on stage, how long they tuned, how long each song was, the amount of time between songs. It was mind-boggling the amount of data this guy gathered. After showing us all the info, he deduced that the second set would be phenomenal, based upon all the time data he recorded during the first set. The dude was right!

I don’t think the setlist, or my words, can adequately convey the energy that was generated in this second set. Not only did they play what may be my three favorite Dead songs in the same set: “Shakedown Street,” “Terrapin Station,” and “Morning Dew,” but everything about this set was awesome beyond description. While I considered myself a Deadhead already, it was during this set that I was transported to a level of Deadication that I had not felt before. If you are a Dead fan, go and listen to the show on Archive.org. You’ll see what I mean.

Here is the full setlist.

Set 1:

  • Hell in a Bucket
  • Sugaree
  • Walkin’ Blues
  • Candyman
  • Masterpiece
  • Bird Song

Set 2:

  • Shakedown Street
  • Man Smart/Woman Smarter
  • Terrapin Station
  • Drums > Space
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Morning Dew
  • Good Lovin’ >
  • La Bamba >
  • Good Lovin’

Encore:

  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
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Grateful Dead and New York City Percussion Ensemble: 9/16/1987

For the second night at Madison Square Garden, we had seats straight back in the lower level. When we got in and took our seats, I noticed something different about the stage—there were chairs set up along the front of the stage. My heart began to race! I immediately assumed that this meant the Dead were going to play an acoustic set. I had never seen the Dead play acoustic, but had heard recordings and was psyched at the prospect. Alas, they did not do an acoustic set, but we were treated to a nice surprise.

The New York City Percussion Ensemble opened the show, unannounced. They were awesome, and had some incredible African dancers accompanying the drummers. One of the people sitting near us said that Babatunde Olatunji was one of the percussionists. I have not been able to confirm this, but I am going with the belief that he was there and that I got to see the legendary drummer perform.

After the drummers, the Dead came out and played two solid sets, so it ended up being quite a long night of music. High points for me were Brent singing “Devil With a Blue Dress > Good Golly Miss Molly,” and a roaring version of “Truckin’” coming out of drums and space.

A side note about this show that is pretty amazing. There were a couple of guys sitting in front of us, and we chatted a bit between sets. Well, after the tour was over and we were all back in South Florida, my friends Julie and Miriam (same friends I was at these shows with) went with me to a Grateful Dead night at a club in Fort Lauderdale. While we were there, these two guys came up to us and said “Hey! Weren’t you at the Dead shows at Madison Square Garden, toward the back, on the second night?” They were the same dudes who were sitting in front of us! We exchanged phone numbers and became close friends. In fact, one of them, Armando, is still one of my closest friends today. It was kind of like some strange twist of fate.

Anyway, here is the full setlist from the show. “New York’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be, oh no.”

Set 1:

  • Touch of Grey
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Dire Wolf
  • My Brother Esau
  • High Time
  • Let it Grow
  • Don’t Ease Me In

Set 2:

  • Bertha
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Devil With a Blue Dress
  • Good Golly Miss Molly
  • Devil With a Blue Dress
  • He’s Gone
  • Drums > Space
  • Truckin’
  • Wharf Rat
  • Throwin’ Stones
  • Not Fade Away

Encore:

  • Black Muddy River

Grateful Dead: 9/15/1987

The day after the third Dead show at the Capitol Centre was a travel day. So me and my friends, Julie and Miriam, packed up our stuff and boarded a train from D.C. to New York City, ready to see another four shows at Madison Square Garden. The band was playing five nights, but we were heading back to Miami after the fourth night. We had lives we needed to get back to.

We passed the time on the train ride creatively, making woven bracelets to sell outside the Garden. Cash was already running low, so we had to generate a little income, if possible.

We arrived in NYC and were supposed to meet my brother who was living in Jersey City at the time. He was working, so we had some time to kill. The three of us sat on the sidewalk and leaned against a tall building, feeling somewhat frazzled. We must have looked even worse than we felt, because some older gentleman who was walking past reached into his pocket and tossed us a small stack of bills, then kept walking. We were taken aback, to say the least, but grateful for the extra cash. We added it to the communal funds.

Later, we met my brother and took the bus from the Port Authority to Jersey City. He and his wife had a nice townhouse there, so we basked in the comfort.

The next day, rested and refreshed, we got instructions from my brother how to get into the city and how to get back home afterwards, then headed out for the first of the Garden shows. When we got to MSG, we were greeted by swarms of tie-dyed freaks crowding the sidewalks as business people in charcoal suits zig-zagged through the sea of color. Looming over the entrance to the Garden was a giant inflatable King Kong, sporting a tie-dye shirt. It was quite the spectacle.

Upon entering the Garden, I got somewhat annoyed that the ticket taker gave me such a crappy ticket stub. I even asked if he could give me the part with the band’s name on it, but he rudely refused. Not much I could do about it.

We got inside and found our seats. The Garden is massive, but after the uncomfortable experiences at the Cap Centre, it felt safe and pleasant. A much better vibe, right off the bat.

The show was solid, and Brent got things rockin’ right off the bat with a great version of “Hey Pocky Way.” Second set was really fun, and “Gimme Some Lovin’” echoed how I was feeling—so glad I made it! “Baby Blue” encore was a sweet way to end the night.

Catching the bus back to Jersey was uneventful, although there was no shortage of strange folk lurking around the Port Authority. But we caught our bus, made it to my brother’s, and wound down the evening.

Here’s the full setlist.

Set 1:

  • Hey Pocky Way
  • New Minglewood Blues
  • When Push Comes to Shove
  • Me and My Uncle
  • Mexicali Blues
  • Row Jimmy
  • Queen Jane Approximately
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Music Never Stopped

Set 2:

  • China Cat Sunflower
  • I Know You Rider
  • Estimated Prophet
  • Eyes of the World
  • Drums > Space
  • The Wheel
  • Gimme Some Lovin’
  • Black Peter
  • Sugar Magnolia

Encore:

  • It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

The Firm: 3/15/1986

Those of you who missed the 80’s (or just have a cloudy memory) may need a little info on The Firm. They were a supergroup comprised of some very notable musicians:

  • Paul Rodgers on lead vocals (from Free and Bad Company)
  • Jimmy Page on guitar (from The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin)
  • Chris Slade on drums (from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Uriah Heep, and AC/DC)
  • Tony Franklin on bass (from Roy Harper, John Sykes’ Blue Murder, David Gilmour, Kate Bush, and Whitesnake)

I went to this show with my friend Mike. Since we were both young guitarists, we were pretty psyched to see the legendary Jimmy Page.

What I remember about the performance was that they were awesome. I personally would have liked to have seen them do a Led Zeppelin tune, but alas. Page did do a really cool guitar solo, though, using the violin bow, with a pyramid of lasers encasing him, reminiscent of the solo featured in “The Song Remains the Same” movie. That was the high point for me.

After the show, we were making the long drive back from the Sportatorium along the two-lane road that took you out of the boonies and back to civilization. We saw two young women hitchhiking, so we picked them up. Mike immediately began chatting them up, clearly hoping to get lucky. When he asked them what they were into, one of them replied, “We’re into each other,” and began making out in the back seat. We could respect that. We drove them as far as we could and dropped them off, then headed home to recover from the killer night of rock and roll.

Here is the setlist, courtesy of the internet.

Setlist

  • Fortune Hunter
  • Closer
  • Someone to Love
  • Make or Break
  • Prelude (Chopin)
  • Money Can’t Buy
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed
  • Radioactive
  • Live in Peace
  • All the King’s Horses
  • The Chase
  • Cadillac
  • Midnight Moonlight
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

George Benson: 6/28/1979

Wow! I kind of surprised myself when I discovered this stub. I have a strong memory of this show, but did not realize that I had saved the ticket stub.

At the time of this show, I was involved in a youth program. The director of the program also worked at a local radio station, so he got a stack of tickets to take a group of us to see George Benson in concert. As a young guitarist, I was pretty excited to see one of the guitar greats live.

This show was a long time ago, but I remember how tasteful his playing was, how cool he was on stage, and how smooth his tone was on the guitar. He is a definite virtuoso guitar player, easily transitioning between rich jazz chords and melodic solos. On top of that, he is a great singer, too.

At 75, he’s still around, but I rarely hear of him performing; although, what I read online is he has a new album tentatively scheduled and there is talk of a tour in 2019. I would see him again if he came nearby. But I am grateful that I got to see him in his prime.

Sorry, could not find any setlists from this era.

Julian Lennon: 4/2/1985

Julian Lennon had a brief moment in the sun in the mid 1980’s. He had some videos on MTV, and of course, he had a somewhat famous dad. His music was pretty good, but a little on the poppy side for my personal tastes. That said, when he booked a couple of shows nearby, I decided go and check one out, figuring he would likely do a couple of his dad’s songs too.

I went with my girlfriend, and we had decent seats. The Sunrise was a nice small venue, so anywhere you sat was good, but we were fairly close to the stage on the side.

The show was pretty much what I had expected. He focused on his own material, but then tossed in a Beatles song as well as a couple other covers at the end that John would have approved of. In fact, John had also recorded a great cover version of “Stand By Me.”

While definitely not the greatest show I had seen, it was enjoyable and I am glad that I got to see him. Here’s the setlist.

Setlist:

  • Well I Don’t Know
  • O.K. for You
  • On the Phone
  • Lonely
  • Say You’re Wrong
  • Let Me Be
  • Valotte
  • Jesse
  • Space
  • Big Mama
  • Too Late for Goodbyes
  • Stand by Me
  • Day Tripper
  • Slippin’ and Slidin’

David Bromberg: 11/9/1989

Since some of you might not be familiar with David Bromberg, I figured I would share his bio from Wikipedia.

David Bromberg (born September 19, 1945) is an American multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. An eclectic artist, Bromberg plays bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, country and western, and rock and roll. He is known for his quirky, humorous lyrics, and the ability to play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time.

Bromberg has played with many famous musicians, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Rusty Evans (The Deep) and Bob Dylan. He co-wrote the song “The Holdup” with former Beatle George Harrison, who played on Bromberg’s self-titled 1972 album. In 2008, he was nominated for a Grammy Award. Bromberg is known for his fingerpicking style that he learned from Reverend Gary Davis.

(Source: Wikipedia)

So as you can see, he is no slouch. This was actually the second time I had seen Bromberg. I went with my dad to see him in the 70’s at Avery Fisher Hall in New York (alas – I do not have that stub). When I saw he was coming to Tobacco Road, I figured I had to go see him again, since the Road was the perfect place for his style of music.

Tobacco Road was a famous blues bar on the Miami River that was a speakeasy in the time of prohibition, and was the oldest bar in Miami until it was demolished on October 26, 2014. So it was a regular haunt for me and my music-loving friends. This particular night I went with my friends Todd and Craig. The place was packed, and the music was incredible. Seeing Bromberg in this venue was really something special.

I could not find a setlist from this particular show, but found a generic setlist from 1989.

Generic 1989 Bromberg Setlist:

  • Brown’s Ferry Blues / There’s No Business Like Show Business
  • Framed
  • Chump Man Blues
  • Keep On Drinkin’
  • I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning
  • Summer Wages
  • Stagger Lee
  • I’ll Take You Back
  • First I Look at the Purse
  • Midnight Hour Blues
  • Sharon

Encore:

  • Fiddle Medley
  • Delia’s Gone