I had seen the Dead quite a few times by this point, but never in a stadium setting. I was a little hesitant to brave the stadium crowd, but figured I might as well. My friend Erin wanted to go with me, so we got tickets through mail order. I had a good friend, Julie, who lived in D.C. and offered us a place to stay, so we were on our way.
The drive from Miami to D.C. was long. Erin slept most of the way and I drove through the night, powered by a steady stream of caffeine. We arrived at Julie’s and had enough time to sleep for a bit before the show.
We took the train to RFK Stadium and the place was insane. Way too many people for my comfort level, but they were all having a good time, so it wasn’t too bad. It was very hot and muggy, though. I saw quite a few people struggling from a mixture of intoxicants and heat exhaustion.
We walked around the parking lot for a while, and I bought a couple shirts from vendors. One in particular was really creative and included a bunch of cartoon characters frolicking around. After a while, we headed inside. We had general admission tickets for the field, which felt like we were swimming in a sea of people.
Sting came out and opened the show. He was really good, playing a nice mix of Police, solo material, and some cover tunes. Jerry Garcia came out at the end of Sting’s set and played a little with him, which was very cool. But seeing Jerry in shorts was a strange sight, indeed. Still can’t get that image out of my mind.
The Dead came out and the first thing that struck me was that there were more people on stage than I was used to seeing. I quickly figured out the Bruce Hornsby had joined the band and was playing accordion. It sounded really good and added a unique feel to the music, especially on songs like “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” and “Cumberland Blues.”
During intermission, Erin and I attended the Wharf Rats meeting, which was unbelievable. It was great to see so many people there. Forming a circle at the end of the meeting was impossible, so everyone just huddled together in a massive group hug which made me feel a part of something larger than myself. It was deeply moving for me.
Second set was great. I’m always happy when I hear “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider.” For an encore, they played “The Weight” on which they did a round-robin, everyone taking a turn singing a verse, then joining together for four-part harmony on the final verse. It was a great was to close an amazing concert. I was already looking forward to the next night.
Here are the full set lists.
- Driven to Tears
- If I Ever Lose My Faith in You
- Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)
- A Day in the Life
- Fields of Gold
- Synchronicity II
- Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
- Saint Augustine in Hell / Straight to My Heart
- King of Pain
- When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around
- Tea in the Sahara / Consider Me Gone (with Jerry Garcia)
- Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
- Little Red Rooster
- Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
- Cumberland Blues
- Promised Land
- China Cat Sunflower >
- I Know You Rider
- Saint of Circumstance >
- Uncle John’s Band >
- Corrina >
- Drums >
- Space >
- I Need a Miracle >
- Wharf Rat >
- Sugar Magnolia
- The Weight