15 Best Grateful Dead Live Albums: Rolling Stone’s Picks

Best Grateful Dead Live Albums

The Grateful Dead, an iconic and influential band in the annals of music history, is renowned for their magical live performances.

Rolling Stone has put together a list of the 15 best Grateful Dead live albums, and we wanted to share it with you! These albums represent the best of the best, and are sure to get you excited for the upcoming Grateful Dead reunion tour!

List of the Best Grateful Dead Live Album

1. Live/Dead

Released in November 1969. Considered a groundbreaking live album, “Live/Dead” was released in November 1969 and captured the Grateful Dead at their psychedelic peak. It introduced the concept of extended jams, a hallmark of their live performances.

The album features iconic tracks like “Dark Star” and “St. Stephen,” showcasing the band’s improvisational prowess and cementing its status as one of the best live albums in music history.

2. Europe ’72

Released in November 1972. “Europe ’72,” released in November 1972, is a triple album documenting the Grateful Dead’s legendary European tour. Classics like “Dark Star” and “Sugaree” are reimagined, providing a unique listening experience.

This album is also notable for its use of acoustic instruments, which was a departure from the Dead’s usual sound. Europe ’72 is a must-have for any fan of live music, capturing the essence of their live peak.

3. Reckoning

Recorded in October 1980. “Reckoning,” recorded over two intimate nights at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco in October 1980, offers a departure from the band’s larger venues. The acoustic setting provides a more personal feel, emphasizing the connection with the audience.

Featuring cherished songs like “Friend of the Devil” and “Uncle John’s Band,” “Reckoning” stands out for its authenticity and remains a testament to the band’s ability to create magic in diverse settings.

4. Dead Set

Recorded on October 1980. “Dead Set” captures the Grateful Dead during their legendary run of shows at Radio City Music Hall in October 1980.

It offers some of the band’s most popular songs, including “Feel Like a Stranger” to crowd favorites such as “Touch of Grey” and “Shakedown Street,” the album is a high-energy showcase of the band’s live prowess. “Dead Set” serves as an essential live document, exemplifying the band’s dynamic stage presence during this period.

5. In the Dark

Released in July 1987, “In the Dark” marked the Grateful Dead’s return to the studio after a seven-year hiatus. The album’s standout single, “Touch of Grey,” became a commercial hit and revitalized the band’s popularity. “In the Dark” not only signifies a return to their roots but also includes gems like “Hell in a Bucket” and “West L.A. Fadeaway.” It’s hailed as one of their best studio albums, contributing to the band’s enduring legacy.

You can also check out How Many Songs Does An Album Have (Easy Guide)

6. Built to Last

Released in October 31, “Built to Last,” released on Halloween 1989, holds a special place in the Grateful Dead’s discography. It serves as the band’s final studio album and features the last recordings with keyboardist Bruce Hornsby. Despite being recorded in a short four-week period, the album received positive reviews.

Noteworthy tracks include “Foolish Heart” and “Standing on the Moon.” “Built to Last” stands as a poignant conclusion to the band’s studio journey.

7. Downhill from Here

Released in July 17, 1990. “Downhill from Here,” , captures the Grateful Dead’s live performances on July 19 and 20, 1989, at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. This album is significant as it marks the band’s last release before the untimely death of Jerry Garcia in 1995.

The album offers a powerful snapshot of the band’s chemistry, with keyboardist Brent Mydland’s final performances, making it a poignant chapter in the Grateful Dead’s live discography.

8. Without a Net

Released in September 1990. “Without a Net,” released in September 1990, stands as a comprehensive live album, spanning performances from 19 different shows during April and May 1990.

The album features both familiar favorites and previously unreleased tracks. Notable highlights include a dynamic version of “Bertha” and a soulful rendition of “Stella Blue.” “Without a Net” captures the Grateful Dead’s diverse live repertoire, making it a cherished addition to their live discography.

9. One More Saturday Night

Recorded in October 1989. “One More Saturday Night,” recorded in October 1989 at Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, encapsulates the band’s energy during their last tour.

Beyond the titular track, the album showcases the Grateful Dead’s ability to seamlessly navigate through different musical genres. It’s a vibrant testament to the band’s enduring stage presence and the excitement of their live performances.

10. Dick’s Picks Volume One

Released in August 1973. “Dick’s Picks Volume One, marks the inception of the iconic live album series. Recorded over a three-night run at the Fillmore East in New York City in February 1970, it captures the band during a pivotal period just months before their legendary performance at the Fillmore West.

The album serves as a time capsule, preserving the Grateful Dead’s evolving sound and improvisational brilliance.

11. Dick’s Picks Volume Two

Released in October 1974. Following the success of the first volume, “Dick’s Picks Volume Two,” released in October 1974, continues to showcase the Grateful Dead’s live prowess.

This live album was recorded over a three-night run at the Fillmore East in New York City on March 25th-27th, 1971, the album features a diverse setlist and exemplifies the band’s ability to captivate audiences through their improvisational journeys. It is a valuable addition to the Dick’s Picks series and the band’s live catalog.

12. Wake of the Flood

Released in 1973,”Wake of the Flood,” released in October 1973, marks a pivotal moment in the Grateful Dead’s career as their first album on their own label, Grateful Dead Records.

Recorded during the Europe ’72 tour, it serves as their first live album since 1970’s “Live/Dead.” The album’s title track, written by Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow, is a standout, and “Wake of the Flood” showcases the band’s evolution and resilience during this period.

13. American Beauty

Released in November 1970. “American Beauty,” offers the band playing acoustic renditions of some of their most popular songs. Jerry Garcia’s work on the pedal steel guitar is particularly noteworthy. The album includes timeless classics like “Box of Rain” and “Sugar Magnolia,” showcasing the band’s ability to seamlessly blend folk, rock, and Americana influences in their live performances.

14. One from the Vault

Recorded in August 1975. “One from the Vault,” recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in August 1975 and released in 1991, captures the Grateful Dead during a transformative period.

The album features some of their best jams from the mid-’70s, including intricate improvisations on tracks like “Help on the Way” and “Slipknot!” The release stands as a testament to the band’s musical exploration and improvisational brilliance during this era.

15. Cornell ’77

Recorded in May 1977. “Cornell ’77,” recorded in May 1977 at Cornell University, is hailed as one of the most famous Grateful Dead shows of all time. Released in 2017, the album captures the band at the pinnacle of their live prowess.

The release includes a box set with the complete show and a documentary about the making of the album, offering fans an immersive experience. “Cornell ’77” remains essential for any Grateful Dead enthusiast, showcasing the band’s unmatched chemistry and improvisational brilliance.

16. Workingman’s Dead

Released in 1970, “Workingman’s Dead” is not just among the Dead’s best studio albums; it also holds a distinguished place in their live catalog.

The album features some of their best-known songs, including “Uncle John’s Band” and “Casey Jones.” “Workingman’s Dead” showcases the band at their prime, offering a blend of folk and Americana influences that has left an enduring impact on their live performances.

17. Ladies and Gentlemen… the Grateful Dead

Released in October 1973, “Ladies and Gentlemen… the Grateful Dead,” is a compilation of performances from February 13 and recorded over five nights at the Fillmore East in April 1971.

The album captures the band in a period of transition, blending their earlier psychedelic sound with the emerging Americana and country influences. It serves as a snapshot of the band’s evolving musical journey and is a valuable addition to their live discography.

Conclusion: Grateful Dead Live Album

The Grateful Dead’s live albums, carefully curated by Rolling Stone, provide a captivating journey through the band’s evolution and enduring influence. From the groundbreaking “Live/Dead” to the iconic “Cornell ’77,” each album represents a unique chapter in the band’s live legacy.

Whether you’re a dedicated fan or a curious listener, these albums offer an immersive experience, showcasing the Grateful Dead’s unparalleled improvisational brilliance and timeless musical exploration.

Frequently Ask Questions

How many live albums does Grateful Dead have?

The Grateful Dead boasts an extensive catalog of 27 live albums, each capturing a distinct moment in the band’s illustrious career.

What is the best Grateful Dead live album?

Determining the best live album is subjective, but Rolling Stone’s list narrows it down to 15 of the best Grateful Dead live albums, each with its own unique significance.

When was the album Live Dead recorded?

“Live/Dead” was recorded over a series of concerts in early 1969 and released later that year, marking a pivotal moment in the Grateful Dead’s live discography.

Which Dark Star is on Live Dead?

The Dark Star on “Live/Dead” is from the February 27, 1969, concert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, showcasing the band’s improvisational brilliance.

What is considered the best Grateful Dead concert ever?

While opinions vary, “Cornell ’77” is often considered the best Grateful Dead concert. Recorded in May 1977 at Cornell University, it captures the band at the peak of their live prowess.

Why do the Grateful Dead have so many live albums?

The Grateful Dead’s reputation is rooted in their improvisational and experimental live performances. With a vast catalog of songs played differently at each show, the band’s numerous live albums document the unique and ever-evolving nature of their live performances.

What is the best Grateful Dead bootleg?

This is another difficult question to answer as there are many great Grateful Dead bootlegs. Some fans believe that the best Grateful Dead bootleg is the one that captures the band at their best, while others believe that the best bootleg is one that is rare or has unique recordings. Ultimately, it is up to the individual fan to decide what they consider to be the best Grateful Dead bootleg.

That’s all for the grateful dead live albums collection! You can also check out 35 Songs about Water: “Under the Sea” to “The Great Flood” and 25 of the Best Female Punk Bands (2022 Updated).

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