December 12, 2009

From The Incomplete Show Files - February 1973

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.) - /El Paso through Playin' - 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....


  1. One reader comments,
    "It is interesting that by 1973 there weren't rabid tapers at every show trying to capture the best sound..."

    I should recap some of my comments in my 1970 audience-tapes post, since the situation was much the same in 1973....there was hardly any trading going on, the idea of mail-trading networks barely existed. So what tapes got made often just got stuck in a closet.
    Those were also the days when the Dead crew arduously busted every taper they saw. I've mentioned the most recent AUD source for 3/19/73, which gets shut down after the first few songs! And hiding a microphone in your coat tends not to make good recordings.
    And for many (not all) of those who were inclined to tape, those were also the days before good equipment, so the AUDs that did get made were usually lousy. For instance, there was an AUD of 2/24/73, but judging by its rarity & the fact that no one's bothered putting it on the Archive, it must have sounded pretty dire...
    But, notwithstanding all this, '73 is the year when we start getting consistently good AUDs from those who did put effort into good equipment & concealment - and I think most of the shows of the year actually were taped, though many of those AUDs are not circulating anymore.

  2. Another reader protested about my description of 2/17 as "mediocre", saying it was an underrated show and deserved some love!

    So, to be fair, I sampled some of the show again....
    He's Gone is a surprise as the second song of the show, and the outro jam is fantastic. But, being the second song of the show, it's a bit too early to segue into anything, so they bring it to a finish.
    Bird Song is always a highlight - this was the first one of the year. At the other end of the first set, Playin' in the Band is a nice collective exploration, without any major explosions; I think the best part is the gliding return to the reprise, which is really magical.
    The second set starts with a bang - the Truckin' jam starts out really hot & fiery and cools down as it goes along. Garcia's in the lead here, taking a long & interesting solo as the others follow him. In the end, again they decide not to segue into anything (only the first song of the set, after all) - I was quite surprised when they returned to the chorus reprise, which was pretty rare by this time. ("That's so 1971," you could say....)
    At this point, that's it for the big jams of the show! The rest of the set is fairly straightforward....
    The Sunshine is a nice version - cut sadly short when Garcia out of nowhere starts up the China Cat intro when you think he's going to take another solo. The others are right with him, so it's a very smooth transition. The China>Rider is pretty standard, with the China Cat jam very laid-back, but things heat up in the Rider.
    The Not Fade Away is the first one they'd played since 11/24/72 - being just an average rendition, it's bound to suffer next to that all-time version! It's still pretty laid-back at the start; seems like just when Garcia starts to get going, he moves quickly into Goin' Down The Road, which is a bit sloppy; it's amusing when Garcia turns on the phased-sound effect in his "rock-star" solo in the middle. The ending theme is quite nice, but they zip straight back into NFA to wrap things up with some Weir shrieks. (Interestingly, the show ends with four rockers in a row; so perhaps they weren't in the mood for slow contemplative jams that night.)

    In short, I'd rate this as a solid but average show, with a few outstanding moments, but a lack of the really exciting jams I expect from early '73. You keep thinking they're holding back for the BIG jam that's due in the second set, but it never comes. Which may be harsh, but after hearing shows where they DO hit the peaks, I hold '73 shows up to a high standard.

    For the record, I wasn't ecstatic about 2/19 either, although it's much-praised - it always stays on an even keel, without making me go "WOW!"

  3. The fragmentary 2/24/73 AUD (including the Truckin'->Eyes) is now up at Lossless Legs.

    1. At last!
      The AUD is about 50 minutes of the second set - not great sound, a little distant and boomy (and some guy near the mike keeps shouting "whoo!"), but otherwise the band is fairly clear and balanced.
      It sounds like a pretty laid-back, leisurely set - the Truckin'>Eyes is the big news here. Garcia takes Truckin' into a Nobody's Fault instrumental, and it sounds like they might spiral into the Other One, but then about ten minutes in, they sort of fade out and, for a couple minutes, there's a delicate Phil/Jerry duet that's one of the most beautiful things they ever played, a truly hair-raising passage.
      This drops into a fairly standard Eyes, which doesn't have the repeated ending riff yet - at the end Garcia veers into an Other One duet with Lesh, but this turns into a light, loose jam. (This is where the SBD reel picks up.) Lesh takes over with one of his best solos, launching the band into a great bouncy, catchy jam that turns into a sprightly, relaxing Feelin' Groovy. This dissolves into a brief floating passage of possibilities before Weir yanks them into Sugar Magnolia.
      In spite of the far-away sound, a staggeringly great sequence.