We’re dipping back into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special show, one that is both joyful and yet deeply painful. It is the final performance of The Grateful Dead’s founding member, the late and great Jerry Garcia, and his final encore with the group, ‘Box of Rain’.
When Garcia took to the stage on July 9th, 1995, the frontman was very sick but nobody could have expected it to be his last performance. It was easy to tell that his free-spirited life had caught up with him.
Arriving on the stage in Chicago with a pallid face and shaky demeanour, Garcia’s on-stage performance denoted a man under serious stress. Yet still, as he was a performer and as a man off stage, Garcia rallied and still delivered a memorable performance when took to the stage at Soldier Field in Chicago.
It would be for the final time and the show wasn’t quite up to the band’s impeccably high standards.
The entire tour was a bit of a disaster for The Grateful Dead. Accurately described as an ‘unlucky tour’ by many of their esteemed Deadhead fans, the Summer East Coast dates of 1995 would struggle again on the night of the final performance, as Garcia was struck down by technical issues.
The guitarist had to replace his trusty Rosebud guitar with a tour spare, the old Tiger, not something any pure player likes to do. Garcia was less than pleased with the situation and most of the performance seemed to be distracted by either the state of the set or his health. Of course, as with any Dead gig, there are moments of pure musical bliss, however, with a set packed with trips back to the past.
Sadly, Garcia shrinks back even further as the set progresses, barely contributing to the band’s notorious second set. But there was a more poignant moment awaiting the band and those fans in attendance, though they wouldn’t know the significance until a month later.
The slightly off-kilter performance on the night was concluded with a saddening moment as The Grateful Dead perform the all-too-apt ‘Box of Rain’. After the first encore of ‘Black Muddy Water’ subsided, the song Phil Lesh wrote with Robert Hunter for his dying father would be the final song The Grateful Dead would ever play with Garcia. Jerry Garcia would die on August 9th, 1995.
Leaving Phil Lesh to sing “Such a long, long time to be gone,” as the audience left the arena, “and a short time to be there.” Its sentiment that rung out over the crowd that evening and every other fan of The Grateful Dead ever since.