With the Grateful Dead’s first-ever performances at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 1978, the band and Red Rocks Amphitheatre started becoming synonymous. The Dead considered the outdoor venue “a sacred place,” likening it to Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt. The band was scheduled to play four days in 1978, but in two shifts (July 7 and 8 plus August 30 and 31). The Dead used Red Rocks as an instrument of sorts to take Deadheads to places they’d never been.
“We played better,” venerable guitarist Jerry Garcia explained. “It’s a cumulative thing as we adapt to the environment. The realities of touring keep you from playing more than one-nighters in a different venue every night. At Red Rocks, we played several nights in one place. It gave us fine tuning possibilities that we couldn’t do before, and the live show is what we really do.”
“I was awestruck by the place when I walked in,” rhythm guitarist Bob Weir added. “You can use all the ‘power’ you can get up there, because you’re basically gasping for air if you’re singing, or playing a horn—you just don’t get a lot of air to work with up there.”
A young Bill Walton had just won his first NBA Most Valuable Player award a month earlier; he hung backstage on crutches. A rare performance of “Werewolves of London” concluded the July 8 show; both the July 7 and 8 shows were released in 2016 among other performances as July 1989: The Complete Recordings.
By G. Brown Colorado Music Experience.