In the midst of a creative resurgence, the Grateful Dead kicks off its 1989 summer tour with an outstanding show filled with dynamic renditions of favorites, deep cuts and covers. This professionally shot film captures the complete performance and provides invaluable insight into the band's onstage communication.
Brent Mydland isn’t merely serenading a stadium packed with 60,000-plus people when he begins to sing “Dear Mr. Fantasy” on July 2, 1989 in Foxboro, MA. The Grateful Dead keyboardist is in the process of turning the Traffic staple — a collective plea to a musician to break an overriding gloom by playing an upbeat tune that puts everyone in a good mood — into a resonant biographical statement. In the song, communal happiness comes at a simple albeit exacting cost, spelled out in the lyrics: Laughter for many in exchange for the tears of one, namely, the performer. Mydland knows the deal all too well. So does guitarist-vocalist Jerry Garcia.
By 1989, the only way for the Grateful Dead to get to Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, MA , which was deservedly notorious for its massive traffic jams, was by helicopter. From the sky it seemed as though there were Deadheads packed tight for miles in every direction. It was borderline spooky, part and parcel of the post-“In the Dark” GD, where we counted any show that wasn’t a disaster as a victory. And the astonishing reach of the crowd, as far as the eye could see, was even more impressive considering that this flight was quite early, so that Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir could film something with the opening act, our friends Los Lobos.
An encounter in graduate school leads Dennis McNally to write a biography on Jack Kerouac and, soon after, the start of a career with the Grateful Dead.
Following an uneventful period, the Grateful Dead’s world began to radically change in the mid-‘80s. Here’s a look at the key events and developments that sparked a creative and commercial resurgence — and marked the end of one era and the beginning of another.