The four surviving members of the Grateful Dead launched their farewell mini-tour Saturday evening in Northern California, where the legendary jam band got its start 50 years ago.
And while the late Jerry Garcia wasn't there to play his signature solos, the heavens put on a show of their own for the thousands of fans who packed into Levi's Stadium for the first of five "Fare Thee Well" shows. A near-perfect rainbow arced above the stadium, streaking across the pastel Santa Clara sky.
The concert wasn't far from the pizzeria where a five-man blues-rock band called The Warlocks played its first gig in May 1965.
The group changed its name to the Grateful Dead seven months later and shortly after moved to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the counterculture hub with which the Dead still are identified.
The Dead are set to perform a second two-set show in Santa Clara on Sunday before heading to Chicago for three shows at Soldier Field on July 3, 4 and 5. Soldier Field is where the Grateful Dead last played as a group before the death of Garcia, the group's lead guitarist-songwriter, in August 1995.
The band's so-called "core four'' — rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann — insist July 5 will be their last concert together. They have recruited Phish front man Trey Anastasio as Garcia's stand-in on guitar and vocals. Keyboardists Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti, best known for his work with Weir's band RatDog, will round out the lineup.
Although the Dead are known almost as much for their legions of die-hard tie-died fans as they are for their extended onstage improvisations, Deadheads won't have much space to make themselves at home at Levi's Stadium, the year-old home of the San Francisco 49ers.
The parking lots where tailgating will be allowed were set to open at 3 p.m.
The Grateful Dead made 65,000 tickets available for each of the California shows. Online ticket reseller StubHub said that as of Friday the average ticket had gone for $171, although sellers had posted asking prices as high as $725.
The Chicago shows, which were announced first and are opening over a holiday weekend, are fetching higher prices, $674 on average, StubHub spokeswoman Jessica Erskine said.