5 Of The Best Grateful Dead Shows Of All Time

March 26, 2020
Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead perform live in concert.

(Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

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Over 2,300 concerts. Tens of thousands songs performed. Needless to say, the Grateful Dead are one of the most dynamic live bands of all time.

As we gear up to broadcast the Grateful Dead's April 11, 1987 show from Chicago's UIC Pavilion this Friday at 9 PM, I took a look back throughout the bands history to condense some of the finest shows all in one place. Naturally, every Dead fan will have their own list of favorite shows. Let me know on Twitter @martyrosenbaum what your favorite show was if it wasn't listed here.

It's a dubious task aiming to rank the best Grateful Dead shows of all time, but here are five that stand out as the top concerts the band has ever performed.

May 8, 1977 - Barton Hall, Cornell University

Universally regarded as one of the band's best performances of all time, the Barton Hall show was finally given an official release in May of 2017 as three-disc CD and five-disc vinyl. Highlights are abound in this show and it's a must listen from front to back.

August 27, 1972 - Old Rennaissance Faire Grounds, Veneta, Oregon

This show was the subject of the 2013 documentary Sunshine Daydream and features some of the most psychedelic playing the Grateful Dead has ever had on stage. Highlights include "China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider," and an over 30-minute "Dark Star". 

March 29, 1990 - Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

Bob Weir considered this show to be "the high point" of the late 80's/early 90's for the Dead. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis sat in with the band during the entire second set, which is a must listen. The show was released as a three-cd live album titled Wake Up To Find Out back in 2014.

November 11, 1973 - Winterland, San Francisco, California

San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom and the Grateful Dead go together like peanut butter and jelly. The band played numerous shows here with the venue serving as home to some of their finest live performances. The show features on of the greatest versions of "Dark Star" the Grateful Dead has ever performed clocking in at a whopping 35 minutes and 41 seconds.

February 14, 1968 - Carousel, San Francisco, California

60's Dead shows represent a special time. The band was just beginning their upward trajectory and had started to gain their recognition as a premier live act. This period of time is well-represented in the raw sound the band has throughout the show urging the audience to explore the sonic capabilities the band fostered.

Related: This Trippy Animated Grateful Dead Record Is Something Every Vinyl Lover Needs

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