EUROPE '72 NOTEBOOK
The music from the Europe '72 tour is unmistakable. The gorgeous tone of Jerry's Nash Strat, Weir's Gibson ES-354 and Phil's "Big Brown" with Keith's Steinway and Pig's B-3 mark a unique and extraordinary moment in the band's history. There can be no disputing the consistently high quality of just about every performance from the tour. But what is it that makes the music from this period so special? How is it that virtually every show, with the exception of Bremen (4/21/72), was performed at such a consistently high level? Was it hypnocracy? The vibe of being in Europe?
I believe there are a panoply of reasons: Weir's emergence as a bona fide co-front man for the band, Keith becoming completely comfortable in his position and fully integrated into the group, and Kreutzmann's continued adjustment to performing without Mickey. I think all the new material introduced on the tour certainly added some freshness and may have piqued the interest of the band members. But certainly there was much more to it! Having finally achieved both critical and financial success, the band was in a good place and well rested. The tour was as much a vacation as a working tour. Most importantly, the band was really having fun on the European continent. The twenty-two performances being spread out over two full months allowed the band to really enjoy themselves and make the most of the culture of Europe, getting inspiration from visiting places like Stonehenge, Solsbury Hill, smoking grass in the Gardens of Kent, and playing baseball in Kensington Gardens, while performing in beautiful old theatres like Tivolis Gardens, Jahrhundert Halle and the Strand Lyceum. And of course enjoying all the libations Europe had to offer. Naturally the drugs might have had something to do with it too, along with the freshness of European beer on tap and first growth Bordeaux.
As much as I have appreciated this music, for some reason it's rather infrequently that I listen to the performances. And when I do, it's usually the same shows like Wembley, Tivolis and Rotterdam. In an effort to become reacquainted with the music from Europe '72, over the past two months I have fully immersed myself in the twenty-two performances of the tour, re-listening to each show in succession before going back and concentrating on the second set jam segments.
Of the many observations I made, one was the contribution of Pigpen. Although he was suffering from the liver disease that would take his life only one year later, his contribution at times is remarkable. And it's not just on songs like Chinatown Shuffle, Two Souls in Communion and his Good Lovin' raps, some of which would turn out to be his final performances. It's the twin keyboard sound of his organ along with Keith's piano that mark some extraordinary and breathtaking passages, particularly during some of the performances of Morning Dew. The finest example of this being the rendition of the song in Munich (5/18/72).
I was also impressed by the relatively high level of sound quality on most of the recordings, and particularly the FM broadcasts. The first show in Paris (5/3/72) and the Radio Luxembourg (5/16/72) performance both circulate in phenomenal sound quality. The clarity and brilliance of these two is extraordinary.
This was not an easy project to stick with. The material being somewhat limited and the set lists often repetitive. The first sets in particular are largely interchangeable. Although the sequences vary somewhat, there is little differentiating the performances of Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Black Throated Wind, etc, etc. from one show to another. The exceptions being Playin' in the Band and Good Lovin'. Though not nearly as stretched out as it would become in 1973, virtually every 12 minute performance of Playin' was excellent and very psychedelic. The first set rendition from Wembley (4/8/72) in particular is a stand out. Though the song opened the second set of a few shows, Good Lovin' was another first set highlight and the superb Wigan (5/7/72) performance is the high-point of that first set.
But the second set jams are all extremely rewarding! Each one is entirely unique and compelling. Several are extraordinary and among the finest music that the band has ever performed. Although the tour is known more for its Dark Stars, Wembley (4/8/72), Rotterdam (5/11/72) and Dusseldorf (4/24/72) being three of the all-time greatest performances of that song, I was struck by the intensity of many of the performances of The Other One. Each version being quite different from the next. The Paris (5/3/72) performance in particular features an extraordinary rendition of The Other One, and the Aarhus (4/16/72) version is rather unique.
The greatest joy, however, was in re-discovering some of the less well known or acclaimed performances from the tour. Shows like Newcastle (4/11/72), Lille (5/13/72), Radio Luxembourg (5/16/72), Munich (5/18/72) and London (5/25/72), not regarded as highly as Copenhagen (4/14/72), Frankfurt (4/26/72) and London (5/26/72), are still phenomenal performances. I came away with a renewed appreciation for both performances in Paris, 5/4/72 for its jazzy Dark Star, as well as the incredible show in Amsterdam (5/10/72). There were a few surprises too; hearing Jerry play the organ on the 5/25/72 Good Lovin' while Weir plays lead guitar was pretty cool. And I was amazed by a few incredibly jazzy jam passages that I hadn't paid close attention to before. The Truckin' from 4/11/72 in particular features a phenomenal bass driven jazz movement during the second instrumental break. I had always avoided listening to the Hamburg (4/29/72) performance because the soundboard was so muddy, only to discover that the Matt Vernon audience recording was actually superior and quite listenable. While 4/14/72 and 5/11/72 had always been my shows of preference, I now regard the extraordinary performance on 5/3/72 as my new favorite from the tour.
Because I generally concentrate on jam suites when I listen to the Grateful Dead, the repetitive nature of the first sets from this tour wasn't really that much of a factor for me. However, although I certainly appreciate the consistently high level of energy, creativity and focused musicianship of the performances from the Europe '72 tour, I found the lack of real extended thematic jamming, with the exception of the gorgeous Mind Left Body Jam from Wembley (4/8/72), to be detrimental. Missing for me also was the blistering primal bare wires intensity that I love from the earlier years. I understand why I don’t listen to the performances from this tour quite as much as shows from 1968 -1971 and 1973 -1974. Still it was an extremely enlightening and positive experience, focusing on these performances, and I came away with an increased regard for the music of Europe '72. But, I will continue to prefer the music from my beloved early era just bit more, as well as the extended jamming from '73 and '74.
I recently spent a week helicopter skiing in Alaska. Before I left New York I loaded my ipod with ONLY the twenty-two shows from the tour. I used some of the bad weather time when we couldn't fly to update my notes and revise my scores for these performances. Although it's still a work in progress (and probably always will be due to the magnitude of the material), I'm sharing my notebook now in the hopes it will initiate some discussion here on this important period in the Grateful Dead's history and the incredible music performed on what might be the band’s greatest tour ever.
Please feel free to correct any errors I have made (I'm sure there are plenty) and to disagree with my opinions. Perhaps you feel a particular transfer/source is superior to one I have chosen, or you prefer a show or song performance, etc. Perhaps any heads lucky enough to have attended will share their experiences? And of course the question remains: Why have we not seen more official releases from this tour and what does the future hold?
After listening to the entire boxed set, my opinion of these shows is unchanged for the most part. The performance in Paris on 5/3/72 is still my favorite show of the tour. Disk three of the 5/11/72 Rotterdam show is the best disk of the entire box. It just might be the greatest disc of music that the Grateful Dead have ever released.
However, after spending enough time with the Euro Box, I find that the "sonic ambiance" of each performance is virtually the same. Which of course is not the case with the circulating recordings in our collections. In particular I find that the unique vibe of both the Lille (5/13/72) and Radio Luxembourg (5/16/72) shows has been entirely lost in the vault remastering.
I find the vault remaster of the Lille show (5/13/72) to be overproduced. The audio quality is perfect, but the remastering seems to have washed out some of the loose "Au naturel" outdoor vibe of this freebie show that was reflected more in both the Ladner and Miller transfers, which capture the vibe of this free outdoor show much better than the box.
Likewise, the vault remaster of the Radio Luxembourg (5/16/72) performance fails to capture the super high intensity of the extreme high wattage transmission, with much of the tremendous intensity of this performance lost in the vault remaster. The unknown.10353.sbeok.shnf soundboard is superior to the box as well.
I have not updated the notebook since receiving the box, however I have revised my scores for some of the shows...
This is a difficult show to score. Both audience sources archived here are extremely poor in sound quality, rendering both transfers virtually unlistenable. Perhaps due to Wembley being a "chilly, cavernous sports facility" this performance, the first show of the tour, is not of the same caliber as many of the subsequent performances. This show has always had a rather poor reputation, however the music available from vault reel sources is excellent, particularly the jam suite on disk three of the Steppin' Out release.
The first set is unremarkable, with the exception of a well played China/Rider. The second set kicks off with an excellent performance of Truckin' that includes a very nice Garcia solo. After a drum break, it segues into a superb Other One featuring a brief Me and My Uncle Jam and a very nice melodic space segment. The reprise gets quite jazzy and there is some marvelous interplay between Jerry and Keith before the second verse. Although quite a few of the following shows on the tour feature more spectacular performances of The Other One, this one is certainly worthy of its inclusion on the official release. (92 pts*)
Apparently the band was feeling a bit warmer on this night because the second show at Wembley is certainly among the finest performances of the tour as well as a top ten of 1972. Playin' in the Band is dynamite and possibly the best performance of this song on the tour. The interplay between Jerry and Phil on this one is mindboggling! Looks Like Rain is a remarkable rendition with Jerry on the pedal steel. Cumberland Blues (on Europe '72) and a terrific Good Lovin' round out a very well played first set.
The extraordinary Dark Star, with its beautiful Mind Left Body Jam, is among the very best ever performed from any era. Some of the Dark Stars performed on this tour are celebrated for their pre-verse explorations. This one is special because of its post-verse thematic jamming. It's likely the most cohesive performance of the song on the entire tour, and rivaled only by the performance in Rotterdam. This one is compelling from start to finish and contains several breathtaking passages. The intro theme jam is lengthy and features some gorgeous chordwork by Weir before a brief, quiet transition that gets punctuated by an interesting repetitive theme initiated by Jerry. It moves quickly into a fantastic jazzy passage prior to the first verse. The post verse space segment drifts into another intense and extended jazzy movement which gets really interesting at 21:00, the band visiting several different themes before eventually going atonal. After another space segment the band locks into a phenomenal Mind Left Body Jam at 27:00. This sublime jam is one of the most beautiful pieces of music the band has ever performed, 4+ minutes of pure bliss before segueing into a dynamite Sugar Magnolia.
In spite of the extraordinary Dark Star, the high point of the show just might be the smoking version of Caution, featuring some blistering Garcia leads, and a bit of slide work as well. It’s amazing how quickly the band found its footing on the continent after just two performances, with a gorgeous sound and tone quite unique to this tour. (99+ pts)
Minor sound issues detract somewhat from what is otherwise another very compelling Europe '72 performance. In spite of GEMS efforts, this remains a bit hissy, though it is still by all means a very enjoyable recording. The centerpiece of this show is of course, the dynamite second set jam suite. The somewhat unspectacular first set features a great performance of Casey Jones, an excellent China/Rider, and a particularly hot Playin' in the Band. Other highlights of this fairly well played show include a terrific Good Lovin' and Sugar Magnolia.
But it's during the second set that this show really cranks up. The loose Truckin' is extremely well jammed and one of the very best performances of the song. Both instrumental breaks are outstanding, particularly the second one which features an extraordinary jazzy bass driven jam. The subsequent jam after Truckin' contains a gorgeous duet between Keith and Jerry before Phil takes over just a few minutes before the drums segment, providing a rather unique and jazzy bass themed movement almost initiating The Other One. This one is structured somewhat like the Dark Stars of the period; an exploratory pre-verse intro that covers quite a bit of ground, then explores multiple themes before melting down into space, finally revisiting the main theme prior to the second verse conclusion. It's a top notch effort that includes some brief Caution licks and a beautiful Feelin' Groovy Jam. A precursor to the amazing performances to come. (94 pts)
Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland after visiting Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. Apparently the Grateful Dead were also inspired by the venue; this gold standard show is not only a contender for the best performance of the tour, it's likely among the best shows ever performed by the band. Both intense and energetic, the show is brilliant from start to finish. Virtually every song is a standout. Although less than 12 minutes in length, Playin' in the Band is a frenzied psychedelic effort and Brown Eyed Women, featured on Europe '72 is dynamite as well. Looks Like Rain is a remarkable rendition with Jerry on the pedal steel.
Naturally the highlight of this performance is the Dark Star, with a gorgeous Feelin' Groovy Jam. The pre-verse jamming is intensely beautiful. Things start to move quickly after the verse, with a rather jazzy segment before Jerry again taps the 57th Street Bridge theme. This time it's at a faster pace before it slows down and rumbles into space, finally breaking down before an abrupt transition into Sugar Magnolia with Garcia sustaining a note deep into the Sugar Mag intro.
Of course the Good Lovin'/Caution sandwich is also a treasure. It's very psychedelic and well jammed, the rap by Pig one of his finest moments on the tour. Although the Bertha-Ashley sound quality of this lively mixed performance is excellent, just a touch cleaner perhaps than the newer Miller remaster in my opinion, this incredible performance deserves to be an official release! (100 pts)
Although the first set suffers from several tragic cuts and is rather poor in sound quality, the band must have felt comfortable performing in the low ceilinged university cafeteria. The second set of this performance is another amazing gem. A well jammed Good Lovin' precedes a smokey performance of Truckin'. With some brilliant soloing, Jerry just rips through both instrumental breaks. It's certainly one of the best performances of Truckin' on the tour, in spite of a couple vocal miscues. There is a remarkable passage during the very last part of the segue into the very uniquely jammed Other One. Bobby and Phil briefly lock in on a rather fascinating theme which is later revisited several times during The Other One Jam. This is an atypically structured performance of The Other One. It contains several rather quiet passages and is played largely without any drums. One of the intense segments occurs during the early stage of the jam. First Jerry and Phil collaborate before Keith eventually chimes in. Deep into the jam, the Other One theme loosely resurfaces. Weir again slashes those similar leads, continuing to exploit the previous theme with Phil. Finally Billy returns to the stage and the band segues into a short but sweet Me and My Uncle before the band finally gets around to the first verse of The Other One. Two and a half minutes later it’s on to a short but sweet NFA> GDTRFB> NFA suite and this one is in the books. (The unique theme of the Aarhus Other One jam gets revisited a couple times over subsequent European performances of the song, most notably in Paris and Amsterdam.) (94 pts)
An outstanding performance, including some great playing by Weir, two sets of which are immortalized in an excellent video from a European television broadcast. It features superb sound quality and a gorgeous soaring Dark Star with a beautiful segue into Sugar Magnolia. Although the songs from the first two sets don't get stretched out much, perhaps due to the television broadcast, everything is particularly well played, particularly the China/Rider, an excellent Big Railroad Blues (the performance where the band wears the Bozo masks for this number), and a classic styled performance of Casey Jones.
While this 30+ minute Dark Star is not quite as brilliant as some of the monumental efforts that follow, it is still a stunning effort, largely due to some great work by Keith. The pre-verse intro is simply beautiful. Right from the opening notes there is some beautiful interplay between Jerry and Keith, though it eventually breaks down. After several attempts, Jerry re-establishes the theme and pulls it back together. Immediately after the verse there is a lilting duet between Jerry and Billy, though this too is unsustained. Following some rumbling from Phil, this one briefly gets quiet, and then the magic starts. At about 24:00, Weir steers the band into a gorgeous and jazzy jam similar to Weather Report Suite. It’s amazingly sublime, the entire ensemble locking in on the theme for several minutes before a thrilling segue into Sugar Magnolia. An excellent performance of Caution follows, the beginning of which is particularly jazzy. This is a gem of a show and the video is fun to watch! (96 pts)
Perhaps the weakest performance of the European tour. Not particularly well played and the sound quality is somewhat problematic. Still, the short Playin' in the Band is a decent performance while the 23 minute Other One has its moments and contains a couple of interesting passages, the most compelling of which are a brief melodic jam immediately after the intro and a particularly intense Garcia solo starting around the 13 minute mark. (89 pts)
The first of a triumvirate of exceptional performances in Germany. Prior to this show being officially released as Rockin’ the Rhein, it was not regarded as a particularly strong performance. We now know it to be one of the best of the tour. It's a superb performance from start to finish. The 17+ minute Good Lovin' is exceptionally well jammed. Other highlights include a well played (particularly by Weir) Tennessee Jed and a great He's Gone.
The 40 minute Dark Star, immortalized in dynamic vault remastered sound quality, is simply dynamite. It's arguably one of the finest performances of the song to be officially released by the band. The eleven minutes of pre-verse jamming is superb. A gorgeous intro theme featuring some stunning piano work by Keith prefaces a wild, spacey Garcia led passage. Immediately after the verse an orbital jam precedes another extraordinary space segment, with Garcia sustaining notes like Carlos Santana. Sixteen minutes in, Jerry and Keith again get together in a nice jazzy movement before things once more get wild and crazy. The following space jam segment might be the finest of the tour. Finally Weir slashes in. It's almost a surprise when the band slips into Me and My Uncle. Another lovely duet between Jerry and Keith develops after the cowboy song, Weir providing some interesting fills. Then an almost a MMU Jam develops, but again the music gets spacey. Seven minutes into the Dark Star reprise the main theme briefly emerges before Weir steers the band into a different theme. The following extended passage is extraordinary as Jerry takes over and the ensemble locks in before segueing seamlessly into an emotive rendition of Wharf Rat. Another short but well played NFA> GDTRFB> NFA suite is an excellent conclusion to this phenomenal performance. (99+ pts)
(I couldn't find a picture from the '70s, so the interior would not have looked quite like this...)
Another extraordinary concert preserved in pristine vault remastered sound quality. Unfortunately the Hundred Year Hall release does not contain the entire performance. Even worse, the songs included are out of sequence. Still, the 16 track sound quality is phenomenal, with the balance of the show available on the excellent quality Matt Vernon remastered soundboard. Performed before a rather stoic German audience, it's still one of the strongest shows of the tour. This one rocks and features a phenomenal performance of the Other One. It's certainly the most up-beat if not the best performance of the song in Europe. Virtually every song in this show is extremely well played, particularly Bertha, Playin' in the Band, Good Lovin' and Dire Wolf. One More Saturday Night is possibly a best ever performance and Lovelight is exceptional as well. It's one of Pigpen's finest moments on this tour.
The second set jam suite kicks off the second set with a great version of Truckin', both instrumental breaks of which are very well jammed. The later features a nice jazzy drum segment before Billy hammers out the intro to The Other One which is a tour de force performance. Listen to this one at maximum volume to get the most out of it! The blistering introduction lasts a full eight minutes, the band completely locked in before moving on to a space segment. Twelve minutes in Phil initiates the Other One theme, continuing to drive the jam after the first verse and through another space jam that follows. At 18:30 Lesh directs the band into an interesting jazzy theme with Weir slashing along before yet another spacey jam. Things start to get scary when Phil starts dropping bombs behind screeching feedback from Jerry. At 26:40 Weir starts a Spanish Jam but Jerry is having none of that, continuing the long feedback runs. Gradually emerging out of the smoldering wreckage, Jerry briefly hints at Caution before initiating an amazing guitar passage at 30:40. This unique jam lasts about three minutes before Garcia rips back into the second verse theme. The balance of the set is packed with more great music, concluding with the Lovelight into GDTRFB sans NFA. (99 pts)
This rather interesting performance starts out quite a bit differently from the shows that precede it, with a nice jazzy and exploratory 9+ minute Playin' in the Band. However the balance of the first set is not noteworthy and with the exception of a dynamite rendition of Good Lovin' is somewhat less compelling. Sadly both the AUD and SBD sources, as well as the subsequent matrices are fair to poor in quality. Otherwise this show would certainly garner a higher score. This is unfortunate because the second set really heats up with another excellent Dark Star.
This 30 minute spacey performance, though not quite as exceptional as several of the masterpieces from earlier in the month, soars from the opening notes. This performance features some dynamite interplay during the extended pre-verse theme intro, with some rather cool percussion sounds. Though much of this version is atonal, there are a couple of dynamite jazzy passages, with a nice Feelin' Groovy Jam starting about 7:20. There is also a fantastic jazzy segment loosely based around a Caution theme that starts around 22:00. Keith in particular really shines on this performance, contributing some of his finest work on this tour. The segue out of Dark Star is atypically abrupt as the band leaves deep space for a particularly hot version of Sugar Magnolia, followed by another excellent performance of Caution. It's really a shame about the sound quality of this one. (94 pts*)
A stunningly beautiful performance, the band seems revitalized in Paris. And it doesn't hurt that this music is sourced from the "Honeymoon Theft" tapes! This high-energy show smokes from start to finish, each song exploratory yet flawlessly played. Bertha, China/Rider (on Europe '72), Sugaree and Sing Me Back Home are dynamite. Virtually every song played at this performance is a candidate for best of the tour, with One More Saturday Night and Jack Straw (on Europe '72) being possible best-ever renditions.
The second set jam suite is extraordinary; the amazing Other One rivaling the incredible performance in Frankfurt one week earlier. An intense Truckin' slips into an eerily quiet passage before Bobby and Phil again revisit the gorgeous theme they explored in Aarhus. This time Phil is a bit more persistent though, eventually leading the way into a more structured Other One Jam. It's all hands on deck before yet another quiet passage featuring some sublime chords by Bob Weir, punctuated by a second jazzy visit to The Other One theme. A drum break precedes an ultra-jazzy Phil solo accompanied by some snappy drums. This one sounds like Jimmy Blanton and Gene Krupa. The balance of the first reprise is a wonderfully jazzy combination of intense Jerry/Keith duets and more lovely Weir/Lesh interplay. Still not finished with the theme, the second verse/reprise follows a soulful Bobby McGee. NFA> GDTRFB> NFA is superb as well. Another amazing performance and one of the very best shows of the tour! (99 pts)
Although I don't score the show as high as the performances in Rotterdam and Copenhagen, 5/3/72 is my personal favorite of all the Europe '72 shows and its rendition of The Other One is definitely among the very best of the tour. I prefer these two Parisian performances to the preceding shows in Germany, their vibe being a bit different. The music may be more aesthetically pleasing than that of the laser focused Dusseldorf and Frankfurt performances, though I'm not convinced that the two shows in Paris are any better.
Another Parisian masterpiece, this time with an exceptional performance of Dark Star. While the first set is not quite as spectacular as that of the night before, although Mr. Charlie could be a best-ever performance of the song, the second set is another magical moment among many on this tour. Pig's 23 minute Good Lovin' set opener is a fantastic performance. But the high point of this show is of course the moody/exploratory two-part Dark Star split by a drum break, and what is possibly the best Sugar Magnolia of 1972 (on Europe '72).
This gorgeous Dark Star soars from the opening notes. It is brilliant and jazzy, sustaining momentum through the entire pre-verse segment. Jerry's playing is particularly inspired. At the 6:00 mark, Billy initiates a snappy jazz beat that drives the ensemble through an extended Coltranesque jam, with Weir slashing in some interesting fills before the verse. The post verse space segment is rather dark and atonal, with some eerie rumblings from Phil before the two and a half minute drum break. Post drums, Phil picks up where he had left off. Things remain spacey and quiet until 7:15 when Jerry initiates another movement and things get real jazzy again. This one moves quickly for a bit, Jerry blazing before things slow down into a gorgeous UJB type theme jam before the second verse conclusion to one of the jazziest performances of Dark Star on the tour. The following performance of Sugar Magnolia, used on the Europe '72 album is phenomenal. Sing Me Back Home, a lovely UJB, and a start-up GDTRFB round out an incredible set. Both of these treasures from France deserve to be boxed and released in their entirety. (98 pts)
A rain sodden and chilly weekend seems to have dampened this festival, though the weather appropriately cleared just before the Dead's show closing performance. Although the sound quality for most of the show renders it rather difficult to enjoy, it’s obvious why so many songs from this performance were included on the Steppin' Out release. This festival gig was, for the most part, very well played (particularly the second set) and at an extremely high energy level. It also represents Pigpen's finest performance on the tour, and what might be his last great show. The Truckin' opener cooks, while Playin' in the Band, Good Lovin' and the Lovelight> GDTRFB are all great performances.
The highlight though, is certainly the phenomenal second set jam suite preserved in master reel source sound quality, featuring both Dark Star AND the Other One. It's the only performance during 1972 to include both songs. Though somewhat abbreviated from other Dark Stars on the tour, clocking in at just over 16 minutes, this is a top notch effort nonetheless. The pre-verse theme intro is brilliant. Jerry is soaring! But what really stands out on this one is some rather fine playing by Bobby. His chord-work throughout is gorgeous. It might be his finest contribution to a performance of Dark Star on the entire tour.
After a post-verse Space/Drums segment, the band just explodes into The Other One. It's a raging monster performance of the song. Not as jazzy or sophisticated as some of the best versions from the tour, this performance is more primal in nature. At times sounding more like '69 or '70 with a fierce pre-verse attack by Garcia and some amazing swirling organ fills from Pig. After the first verse there is an awesome solo by Phil, perhaps his best of the tour. The space segment continues with Jerry and Weir eventually going atonal. Finally Weir drives the band back into the theme and it catches fire again prior to the second verse. The show concludes with a superb performance of Lovelight, featuring some great slidework by Jerry before another excellent GDTRFB/NFA. If the music of the first set was available in better sound quality, this amazing performance might garner a perfect score. (98+ pts)
Perhaps overshadowed by the monumental performances preceding and following it, this treasure might be the most overlooked gem of the tour. This vastly underrated show is extremely well played from start to finish. Virtually every song is a standout performance. The sound quality is superb and the mix lively. The separation is excellent making it easy to hear how well both Keith and Bobby are playing. While the highlights include a terrific Bertha opener, an excellent Truckin' and what is possibly the best early performance of He's Gone, the centerpiece of the show is another jazzy and extraordinarily jammed out Other One.
This one is as fine as the performances of the song in Frankfurt and Paris. It's highly exploratory, visiting numerous themes over its more than 35 minutes. Erupting out of Drums, from the opening notes this performance of The Other One percolates like a pot of fine Blue Mountain. Extremely jazzy in nature, there are several extraordinary movements. A particularly brilliant passage starts at 4:45, after the jam slows down it gets real smoky with an almost Clementine type theme. Close your eyes and you can imagine being in a jazz club. Ten minutes in, the Other One theme emerges again. After the first verse, it gets spacey, eventually going atonal with some wild notes from Phil before another spectacular jazz segment commences at 20:00. Over the next fourteen minutes, this amazing music covers a ton of ground, never losing momentum. Several times the Other One theme re-emerges but somehow the band avoids the second verse. Instead Phil and Bobby initiate an amazing Dylanesque passage at 32:00. Garcia's playing becomes highly emotive, the music is both haunting and sublime. It's one of the most amazing pieces of music on the entire tour. As if the theme has reached its zenith, with nowhere left to go, they segue into Bobby McGee, before finally completing the journey into the reprise and second verse conclusion to what might be the finest performance of The Other One on the tour. Amazingly, there is another full hour of music left in the set including fantastic performances of Wharf Rat, Sugar Magnolia and a dynamite show closing NFA> GDTRFB> NFA. (98 pts)
A monumental performance, this treasure might be the finest show of the entire tour, if not one of the greatest performances of all time. Every member of the band has brought their A game to Rotterdam, even Pigpen who shines every chance he gets. It's his last chance at Caution, and he makes the most of it, as well as giving a fine effort on Chinatown Shuffle.
From the opening moments of the show it becomes apparent that this is going to be special, as the band launches into a dynamite version of Playin' in the Band. Though it only clocks in at 10+ minutes, and it's not as exploratory as the song would get in 1973, it's still a brilliant jazzy rendition as the band twists through the Main Ten theme. Virtually every song is extremely well played. Sugaree, Morning Dew and Good Lovin' are all fabulous performances.
But certainly all are eclipsed by a 45+ minute Dark Star which has to be considered an opus. At times it's so beautifully played that you might find yourself forgetting to breathe. It's an ultra jazzy odyssey that you must listen to in a quiet environment with no distractions in order to fully appreciate. Singularly one of the finest moments in the band’s history, this one soars right from the opening notes of the theme. 4:30 in, the band briefly locks in on a choppy riff before breaking down into jazzy space. Eventually Jerry steers the band into a quiet passage which eventually takes on a loose Let It Grow theme, Weir slashing in fills. At the 10 minute mark Jerry begins playing a repetitive scale, initiating another extraordinary passage lasting until the drum break. Right out of the drums Phil and Billy collaborate on a sublime Bird Song themed jam that is all too brief before Jerry joins them and gradually guides the jam back to the Dark Star theme and into the first verse. The eleven minute post verse space jam begins with a brilliant duet between Jerry and Phil before things get atonal, gradually building in intensity. The segment turns incredibly wild as Phil detonates an awesome series of explosions, Jerry continuing his attack. The final 11+ minute movement starts out with a fast paced and ultra jazzy passage before briefly acquiring a Caution type theme, Phil returning with a second bombing run. This is followed by another extremely intense Caution themed passage and screaming guitars. By now I imagine the fire alarms had to be going off at the Civic Hall. The concluding passage is beautifully Dylanesque with Pig's swirling organ and some eerie notes from Jerry, finally segueing into Sugar Magnolia. Still there is more to come; a second jam suite featuring a blazing hot Caution> Who Do You Love> Truckin'> UJB. Is there a better performance on this tour? (100 pts)
Back in France for a make up date, the band pulls off another stellar performance. Interrupted by rain, it's not quite as superlative as some of the preceding shows, however the second set is dynamite. The set opening performance of Truckin' is excellent, featuring some some great licks by Jerry and slashing leads from Weir. Towards the end of the instrumental break you can hear a brief, but unmistakable shot at a Nobody's Jam.
The highlight of the free concert is an excellent 28+ minute, sometimes spacey performance of The Other One. The jamming on this one is not nearly as cohesive as the performance in Paris ten days earlier. Still there is some great playing; Weir in particular contributes his trademark slashing leads throughout, and Pigpen adds some eerie organ fills that add to the mood. Following the intense meltdown segment, at about 20:40, there is a compelling movement that contains some brief hints of a Spanish Jam. This is followed by an interesting jam with Billy hammering out a drumbeat and containing some great guitar work from Bobby who comes through the right channel crystal clear. The show ending NFA> GDTRFB, though cut, is terrific as well. Sound quality on the incomplete Ladner transfer is fine, but the partial Miller file is better, possibly sourced from the Taper's Section. It is likely that portions of this performance are missing. (95 pts)
Tight as a drum, with perhaps the most well played first set, this might be the most underrated performance of the tour. Though it's a bit shorter, perhaps to accommodate the radio broadcast, sonically it's superior to most shows from the tour excluding only the official releases. Crisp and clear, the live-wire mix is particularly lively and the separation remarkable. The musicianship too is laser focused and precise. Virtually all the songs are extremely well executed and played at a tempo just a bit faster than was normal for the tour, giving it a vibe somewhat unique to the other Europe shows. Highlights include great performances of Bertha, Me and My Uncle with a great solo by Jerry, a fantastic Sing Me Back Home and what might be the best China/Rider of the tour. Weir's leads blaze through the transition into IKYR. Pig's Chinatown Shuffle is likely his best performance of the song on the tour, and Playin' in the Band is also notable.
Though it's not quite jammed at the level of the monumental performances in Copenhagen and Rotterdam, the second set jam suite is excellent. Truckin' is exceptional and includes some incredible leads by Garcia. Although it only clocks in at just under twenty minutes, the Other One is an amazing performance. The intro in particular is unbelievable! It is one of the best Other One intros of all time! The intensity level of the first two and a half minutes is off the charts! This one moves rather quickly into the first verse, mainly sticking with the Other One theme and carrying the momentum well. There is a wild post verse passage starting at 11:00, eventually leading to an awesome explosive barrage from Phil, and ultimately some major lengthy sustained notes from Jerry. A jazzy movement follows, with some Spanish Jam hints before Phil drives things back into The Other One theme prior to the second verse climax. The balance of the set is also well played. This is a thrilling performance from start to finish. (97 pts)
Another very strong performance, if somewhat less spectacular (with the exception of Morning Dew). Recent upgrades in sound quality have made this show more enjoyable. It's consistently well played. Stand outs include what might be the best ever performance of It Hurts Me Too and of course the superb performance of Dark Star> Morning Dew, the first time that this combination was played together.
The 26 minute Dark Star is superb. It's not as beautiful as the performance of the song at Wembley, or as jazzy as the Rotterdam version. Nor is it as cohesive as the rendition in Copenhagen. Still, it is an excellent and up beat performance of the song that carries its momentum entirely through its duration. The intro theme jam is gorgeous. Following a brief bass solo, there is a lovely duet between Garcia and Weir starting at 7:00 that turns nice and jazzy before soaring back into the pre-verse theme. A second bass solo follows the verse and things get atonal for a while, building in intensity before the first ever segue from Dark Star into Morning Dew.
This performance of Morning Dew is unique and extraordinarily beautiful. Although the rendition on 5/23 seems to garner more accolades, this one is just a bit better in my opinion. Jerry's voice is strong and his interpretation here is highly emotive. He really slows it down and turns reflective prior to the refrain. One of the elements that sets the music of the European tour apart is the dynamics of having two keyboard players. Nowhere is this more apparent than during this gorgeous performance of Morning Dew. Pigpen’s swirling organ fills really seem to complement Keith's piano work on the beautiful quiet parts. It's one of the high points of the tour. An interestingly placed drum break follows Morning Dew before the band launches into a great Sugar Magnolia. (96 pts)
This might be the most overrated show of the tour. That said, it's still a phenomenal performance, much of it available in vault remastered sound quality. The number of songs included on Steppin' Out is a testament to how well played it is. (Although, one could also speculate that perhaps superior performances such as in Rotterdam, Copenhagen and Paris might be being reserved for future official release in their entirety?) Regardless, it's a very strong show, particularly for Pigpen who shines brightly on Two Souls in Communion. The set list is one of the most interesting of the tour, including a few rare numbers like Sitting On Top of the World, Rockin' Pneumonia and Hey Bo Diddley. Several songs such as Comes a Time and Uncle Johns Band are candidates for best of the tour.
Obviously cognizant of how powerful the combination was, the band reprises Dark Star> Morning Dew from the previous performance in Munich. In fact they almost can't wait, breaking it out early in the second set. This thirty minute Dark Star goes a bit further, though. And while it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights achieved on 4/8, 4/24 or 5/11, it is certainly an exceptional performance. Perhaps not quite as cohesive as those versions, but surely not lacking in intensity. Jazzy, almost from the opening notes, the initial intro theme jam is punchy and upbeat. Another interesting passage develops at 8:00, with Jerry bending and sustaining his notes with Phil rumbling. After a brief drum segment there is another jazzy segment, this time its Weir and Garcia getting together before the verse. A wild space follows before a sublime transition into Morning Dew. Again Morning Dew is an extremely powerful performance, superbly played, perhaps superior to the 5/26 version immortalized on Europe '72, and eclipsed only by the extraordinarily emotive rendition from Munich. The show closing GDTRFB> NFA including a rocking Hey Bo Diddley is likely the top performance of this suite on the tour. (97 pts)
Another rather difficult performance to score. If the complete show was available in the sound quality of the Andy Lemieux remaster it would undoubtedly garner a score a couple of points higher. Although a number of songs from this performance have been included in official releases, the incomplete show is only available in poor audience recordings and unfortunately several songs are cut, and a significant portion of the second set is entirely missing. Luckily a partial recording including the compelling second set jam is available as a very good quality soundboard.
Following the neat Mexican Hat Dance tuning jam, Truckin' seems a bit rushed. But the thirty-minute performance of The Other One, though somewhat dissonant at times, is nicely jazzy and contains some brilliant passages. It's a rather edgy version, largely driven by Phil's bass lines. A gorgeous jazzy theme develops about three and a half minutes in, but unfortunately it breaks down prematurely. At 6:30, both guitars lock in on a great duet, Garcia and Weir sounding not unlike Duane and Betts during this extended passage prior to the first verse. An atonal space segment follows, but Phil pushes this into a nice jazzy groove starting at 17:30. A Caution-like theme develops before another spacey jam with sustained keyboard effects. Once again it's Phil’s bass driving the band back into The Other One theme prior to the second verse conclusion.
Pig's following performance of Lovelight> Two Souls is excellent. Unfortunately, most of the balance of the set is missing. Against the extraordinarily high level of the performances preceding this one, it pales somewhat in comparison. But in truth this is a dynamite show! The second set jam as well as the material included on the official releases is certainly quite compelling. (96 pts)
Perhaps the last great performance by Pigpen. Only relatively recently has a more comprehensive, but still incomplete soundboard recording of this fantastic performance become available. Sadly, a good chunk of the second set of this excellent concert is still missing.
Although the show gets off to a bit of a slow start, by the middle of the first set things start to heat up. The 17 minute, last Pigpen performance of Good Lovin' is phenomenal. It features a nice smoky jam and some extraordinary lead guitar by Weir. Is that really Garcia playing organ during the intro? Playin' in the Band is typically psychedelic. It's one of the better performances of the song on the tour, the band starting to stretch it out a bit.
The highlight of the show of course, is the incredible second set jam sequence and another amazing performance of Dark Star. A great Uncle John's Band kicks off the suite, possibly the best of the tour. But it's during the jam prior to Wharf Rat where the music really takes off. It's an amazing rendition of the song, highly emotive, and perhaps the best performance of Wharf Rat on the tour. Once again we are treated to monumental performance of Dark Star. This exploratory performance covers a great deal of ground during the almost 17 minutes prior to the first verse, much of it is quite jazzy. The snappy opening theme jam in particular is dynamite, and an intense spacey jam punctuated by some wild bass chords precedes the first verse. After the verse, at about 18:30, a rather amazing bass driven jam develops with some very cool interplay between Billy, Keith and Phil. Eventually Weir leads the band into a beautiful Feelin' Groovy Jam that lasts several delightful minutes before things get rather wild, Phil producing some rather interesting sounds prior to things melting down into a dizzying space segment. Unfortunately, the conclusion of the performance is missing after Sugar Magnolia. You might think that after two months on the road, the band might show more evidence of fatigue or a lapse in creativity, however this is a tremendous show. Will we ever hear the complete performance? (98 pts*)
*If the new soundboard recording contained the complete show, this performance might garner a perfect score!
A monumental performance, the band has pulled out all the stops for their last show of the tour. The nineteen song 2+ hour first set, perhaps the finest of the tour, is a monster, featuring fantastic performances of Cumberland Blues, Jack Straw, China/Rider, Playin' in the Band and a surprise Dire Wolf. Concluding with a jammed out NFA> GDTRFB> NFA, this set on its own would have been a great show.
But of course the band still has a bit of magic left in the tank, the second set commencing with a jam suite right off the bat. This one will sound very familiar with the incredible Truckin' and Morning Dew immortalized on Europe '72 split by an epic 35+ minute, largely percussion driven performance of The Other One which gets reprised twice. The post Truckin' "Epilogue" is phenomenal. Seamless, it's difficult to discern where Truckin' ends and The Other One begins, Jerry and Keith are locked in so tightly. A brief but intense bass solo preceeds the intro theme. After a great drum solo the theme fires up again. Keith’s playing is extraordinary here. During a brief segment just prior to the first verse he sounds like Steve Winwood. The following ten minute post-verse "Prelude" to Morning Dew is one of the most compelling passages that the band has ever played. After the phenomenal performance of Morning Dew the band finds their way back into The Other One. Three minutes into the second reprise there is some rather cool interplay between Weir and Garcia which is followed by a brief but sublime duet between Pigpen and Keith that must be heard to be believed. Simply beautiful, it's an amazing conclusion to this epic tour. (100 pts)
(Not the Dead....)