It's surprising that there are still shows from 1973 where we don't have the complete show - but there are a couple right from the beginning of the year.
The Dead started out 1973 with two revered shows on Feb 9 and 15 - the 2/15 show is probably the best of the month. The Feb 17 show is perhaps mediocre in comparison, with the highlight being the unique Sunshine>China>Rider. But for the Feb 19 show in Chicago, a mystery remains, as we only have an 80-minute piece of set II, and as far as I know no setlist is even known for the rest of the show. Dick Latvala said of 2/19, "I have only found a cassette of Bear's that had a very stunning, if not shocking, jam....that simply has to be heard to understand how good things can get!" Truth, or hyperbole?....
Our tape starts with a jaunty, cheerful He's Gone, which glides into a piercing outro solo from Garcia. Lesh pushes them into Truckin' - there's a smooth jam out of Truckin', which quickly settles into an anticipatory pre-Other One stillness, the Dead teasing the song for a few minutes as the crowd goes wild. Lesh takes charge here, driving ahead as the others follow his lines, and all of a sudden they find themselves in the Other One. The jam still flows smoothly with splashes of piano, nothing explosive, until they trickle away into silence; then Lesh takes the opportunity for a solo while Kreutzmann colors in some percussion. Lesh gets increasingly flamboyant here (although to my mind, this solo doesn't match the one out of Dark Star on 2/15), until he stops for a little drum solo. Garcia finally comes back in with some quiet notes, and Lesh at last sounds the Big Intro to the Other One. The verse comes quickly, and the jam heats up for a little bit, but they soon calm down again and return to their questing tapestry of notes....
Who knows what happened next, for a tapeflip suddenly takes us to the intro of Eyes of the World. This was the third live version, and it's a bit slow and tentative - compared to later Eyes, Garcia sticks to the chords a lot, as if figuring out how the jams should go. But in twenty minutes of Eyes, there is certainly plenty of room for jamming; after the "song" part is done, there's a long, careful exploration led by Garcia and Lesh. Lesh finally leads them into the "end-of Eyes riff", though they're still somewhat uncertain with it, never quite getting in time. So they pass into another transitional phase, quieting down for a slow segue into....
If anyone had been following this tour, China Doll wouldn't have been a big surprise, since Eyes had gone into China Doll the last two times as well! It comes off all right, very wispy but not falling apart, and is well-received by the audience - Garcia gives a nice little solo at the end. Weir loses no time jumping into the familiar tune of Sugar Magnolia, which is well-done.
The Dead followed this with a couple shows in Urbana (which Latvala considered "fantastic", and swore would be released), and then we run into another of our seriously incomplete SBDs at the Feb 24 show in Iowa. There is a decent AUD of the end of the second set (from Wave That Flag to the end) - it's described at length in the Taping Compendium as a typically excellent '73 Truckin'>Eyes jam - but it is still not on the Archive. So for now, we have to make do with two very brief SBD fragments, one from the end of the first set, and one a mere nine-minute excerpt of the jam out of Eyes of the World. (Which, by the way, is mislabeled as the Truckin>Nobody's Fault jam.)
There might not be much hope for the rest of the second set in SBD, since Latvala and Lemieux have both noted that reel #5 (the Truckin'>Eyes) is missing from the Vault!
The complete setlist went like this:
SET I Bertha ; Mexicali Blues ; Brown Eyed Women ; Looks Like Rain ; Loose Lucy ; Beat It On Down The Line ; China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider ; Jack Straw ; Here Comes Sunshine ; El Paso ; Box Of Rain ; Tennessee Jed ; Playing In The Band
SET II They Love Each Other ; Greatest Story Ever Told ; Row Jimmy ; Big River ; Ramble On Rose ; Me And Bobby McGee ; Wave That Flag ; You Ain't Woman Enough ; Truckin' > Nobody's Fault But Mine Jam > Eyes Of The World > Sugar Magnolia
Playing in the Band is quite hypnotic, as usual for '73 versions, and takes us on a twenty-minute journey. Garcia leans heavily on the wah-wah for that floating tone; he drops out of the jam a couple times, but comes back in with a vengeance, taking it to an even more transportational level, and climaxing with rapid flurries of notes. Whenever you think they're about to wrap it up, they keep going out even farther into new territory. But just when things start getting really intense, Garcia turns down the heat and suddenly brings back the reprise riff; they seem to be in a hurry at the finish.
The jam fragment starts at the tail-end of Eyes. Its a pity we don't have the Eyes since the band sounds very fresh and lit-up. Garcia could be out of gas though, for he soon drops out and leaves Lesh and Kreutzmann for a bass/drum interlude. This is one of the recordings that shows Lesh in full stereo effect, each bass string wired to different speakers so he bounces across the channels. His solo is energetic & melodic, and Garcia comes back in very sweetly. As the full band rejoins them, Garcia starts the Feelin' Groovy melody to triumphant effect. (The way he slips it into the repeating bass riff is quite neat.) This is the last Feelin' Groovy before it became part of China>Rider and it has a looser feel - it is, if you will, very groovy. After a couple minutes the band loses the thread, and Garcia drifts into random riffs; so Lesh nudges them to a graceful drawn-out close. (From there, they went into Sugar Magnolia.)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd73-02-24.pset1-sbd.sly.16051.sbeok.shnf - /El Paso through Playin'
http://www.archive.org/details/gd73-02-24.sbd.elliot.11929.sbeok.shnf - post-Eyes jam
UPDATE: The 2/24/73 AUD tape is now available!
The Dead closed out the month with a couple more shows on Feb 26 and 28, which were released as a Dick's Pick - although Latvala said 2/26 wasn't a top show of the year and he didn't place much value on it! It's worth mentioning that Feb 28 was the last show played while Pigpen was alive....