On Sunday and Monday, June 16 and 17, 1991, the Grateful Dead played Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, the stadium formerly/commonly known as the Meadowlands opened in 1976 and closed in 2010. The Dead first played there in 1978, then again in 1987 and 1989. The two-night run in 1991 were their first shows at the venue without Brent Mydland.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I stopped paying attention to the Dead in 1990. I’ve listened to a lot of ’90s shows since then. In my opinion, Summer 1991 was the band’s last great tour. It has only been the subject of two official releases – 2001’s View from the Vault II, which primarily featured 6/14/91 (RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.), and 2006’s Download Series #11, which primarily featured 6/20/91 (Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, MI). The latter is on Spotify.
Obviously, I didn’t attend any of those shows. ECM did. In fact, he was at Giants Stadium both nights. Here’s his personal review:
“I attended both of these Giants Stadium shows (along with RFK Stadium) on the Dead’s 1991 Summer Tour. I featured the Jack Straw (6/16/91) in my 2015 edition of 31 Days. It was a weird time for me b/c of the accident my brother’s best friend had, which I wrote about there. Brent hadn’t been dead a year yet, so I was still kind of mourning his loss. Also, something weird happened at the 6/17 show that has always stayed with me. Throughout the show a guy sitting near me repeatedly got up from his seat and gesticulated shooting up heroin in his arm, while he called out Jerry’s name. It was shocking and upsetting to me b/c I thought (perhaps naively) that Jerry was clean. However, in hindsight it turned out to be true. With each passing tour I began to notice that the band – Jerry – was falling apart and it always brought me back to that show and the guy “shooting heroin.”
Musically, these shows are great – much better than I remembered them due to all of the distractions I mentioned above. I especially liked the pre-Drums sequence on Sunday. Jack Straw and China > Rider were completely rockin! The China > Rider is played at such a speedy tempo that it almost leaves you breathless. When the band abruptly goes into Drums after Rider I immediately thought that the reason they rushed through it so quickly was probably b/c somebody in the band (probably Jerry) needed an emergency bathroom break! Who knows, maybe it was planned that way. The ending jam in Black Peter and Stagger Lee in the first set are both quite good too.
I initially did not care for all of the Dark Star teases in the Monday night show. Stop blue-balling me and just play the f’ing thing already! It seemed a little gimmicky to me at the time, but after reading some of the reviews that on the LMA, which discuss the “envelope” theory and keeping the listener on edge, I have come around and changed my position. The music certainly holds up – Dark Star teases and all. The band was on, especially Jerry and Bruce. You can tell that Jerry was in very good spirits by his vocal inflections on songs like Eyes of the World, Loose Lucy and Might As Well.
The first set is very strong. Eyes of the World was going through a new Renaissance since the band’s standard-setting performance at Nassau Coliseum with Branford Marsalis the previous year. It is always exciting to see the band take a chance and try something new so opening with Eyes was a good omen and set the tone for the rest of the show. This upbeat version is probably one of the best post-Brent versions. Other set highlights include a speedy Brown-Eyed Women, and ass-kicking versions of Loose Lucy and Might As Well, both of which boast very strong vocals by Garcia. Hornsby absolutely destroys his piano solo on Might As Well, leaving Jerry so invigorated that he takes the last chorus around a least a dozen times before ending the set on a very high note. It is an all-time version for the ages.
Set two is highlighted by Saint of Circumstances, New Speedway Boogie, and Uncle John’s Band. Space drifted into a haunting China Doll that got way too personal for me with the heavy lyrical references to death.”
Ed’s thoughts are in line with some of the LMA reviews. Of 6/16, birdsgosouth said the beginning of the second set was “pure unadulterated SHRED.” GDTrey highlighted the Jack Straw, and dmilks highlighted the China > Rider. Oh, and jakleggs advised, “If you like Bobby you’ll love this show. He really whips out the velveeta. Some say it’s just average but I like it alot! Picasso Moon is fabulous!!” So there you go.
6/17 gets more accolades. icecreamjay set the scene:
“There were massive thunderstorms right before the show. It absolutely poured. I remember people running around on the floor (or field) and sliding on the huge blue tarp they used to protect the grass like the whole place was a giant slip and slide. The energy was nuts. This was always a crazy place to see a show. Other people were jumping out of the stands to get to the floor and security was chasing them. It was quite a show. Everyone would wait until security was on the other side of the floor and then about fifty people would all go at once. Security would head to that side, and the other side would use the same strategy. Of course the audience loved it, cheering the crazy fans (Giants has about a ten foot wall and at the time an orange plastic fence that got trampled and torn down) each time another wave jumped.”
According to buddha brian, “The humidity was so intense that we were crying for it to rain …and it did! What a metaphysical orgasm. When the storm finally broke, the night opened up and the energy began to flow, from the sky, the stage and the crowd.” Terrapin31590 opined that it was “the best post-Mydland show,” while omnihead suggested that it contained “the best and most energetic first set of the nineties.” socal (wasn’t he a sometimes member of the GDC crew for a while?) called the show “one for the ages,” adding:
“Truly an impressive show – late era GD at its best (no small thanks to Bruce for this). From the Eyes opener to the Weight encore, the setlist is a work of art. The Dark Star theme colors the entire show. It’s ironic that it’s the most Dark Star-influenced show I’ve ever heard, but the song proper is never played; and that’s a good thing it keeps the listener on edge and paying attention. Not that they needed any gimmick this show. The whole thing rocks. From the Eyes, to the Loose Lucy, to Masterpiece to the crazy second set, there are some ‘best ever’ candidates here. (Def. the best Lucy I know of.). But the obvious draw of this show is that it’s like one big Dark Star w/o the verses. They jam on it, tease it, play the whole theme – it’s all incredible. I think my favorite aspect is the way Bruce sneaks the familiar Dark Star riff into several of the songs – when’s the last time you heard a DS tease in the middle of Masterpiece? One of my favorite shows ever. A must have.”
doug_the_dude laid the blame/credit for the Dark Star teases on keyboardist Bruce Hornsby: “Certainly one of the most interesting, most unusual shows of the ’90s period, if I may say…I know that Bruce in particular had some frustrations with the band’s reluctance to *really* jazz up the setlists during his tenure with the band; this show and set 2 of 6/20 may be examples of his influence (he’s definitely the main Dark Star culprit…)”
tahoe_upsetter remembered “that there was a fan on Jerry that made his shoulder length hair take flight. Watching him smile and the wings flap made me happy for him, just being in the moment.”
Transport to the soundboard recording of 6/16/91 on the LMA HERE.
Transport to the Charlie Miller transfer and edit of the soundboard recording of 6/17/91 on the LMA HERE.
And here’s ABC network video of the Miracle, Eyes, and Saint…
(There’s also fan-shot video of the whole show, but the quality is so bad that I’m not gonna bother with a link.)