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

5 thoughts on “Grateful Dead and New York City Percussion Ensemble: 9/16/1987

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