Thursday, May 26, 2022

Europe 72 Revisited Part Twenty-Two


The grand last show of the tour: May 26, 1972, Lyceum Theatre. Here’s an excerpt from Europe 72 Revisited:

                 To finish off the legendary opening set, the Dead unroll a pair of monumental combos, China Cat > I Know You Rider, and NFA > GDTRFB > NFA. The grand last show of the tour, May 26, 1972. Here’s an excerpt from Europe 72 Revisited: The crowd starts to clap out a “NFA” beat and the band obliges them. Why they started to clap at that time is a mystery, but the Dead rewarded the zealous London faithful. Out of this thrilling powerhouse ending to the set, the “Not Fade Away” segue jam is king. With this trifecta out of the mix, the Dead would have to be extra creative in set two.

            The Grateful Dead were only warming up with that monumental set. This would have been a beloved concert even if the second set was shorter than usual. Instead, the band let it all hang out, playing close to two hours again while capturing some magical performances for the album. Set two starts with Truckin’ > The Other One. As was always the case in Europe, they managed to make it distinctive.

            The 5-26-72 “Truckin’” comprises the two tracks on side five of Europe ‘72, “Truckin’” and “Epilogue.” It’s over eighteen minutes long, and it’s the second rendition from this tour without a chorus reprise; Beat-Club is the other one. The jam pivots towards “The Other One” early as it weaves and swirls between both tunes. Phil strikes the trademark “Other One” blastoff and the band glides forward. Jerry’s licks spray on the canvas like Silly String. The band sidesteps the usual cyclone jamming, and Billy takes over with stunning percussion playing as Jerry noodles below. A hot jam vaguely connected to “The Other One” materializes. Phil and Jerry are merry dance partners as the music streams on and lands in a Billy drum solo. This segment sounds like an improvisational jam from a 1974 Grateful Dead show.

            On the other side of drums, Phil blasts off “The Other One” for a second time, and a brief jam leads to the “Spanish Lady” verse. This version is similar yet better than the one from 4-16-72 Aarhus University when they also play mostly on the outskirts of “The Other One.” The ensuing jam in the Lyceum is elegant as it creatively connects “The Other One” to “Morning Dew.” A healthy chunk of this jam forms the “Prelude” track that starts side six of Europe ’72. And what a royal prelude it is!

            “Morning Dew” has ascended from a beloved classic to the Holy Grail. There’s an air of religiosity to this magnificent performance: Deadhead nation please stand for our National Anthem while Reverend Garcia and the band walk you out in the morning dew. Garcia’s voice channels deep emotion as he exercises precise artistic control. Stopping time in its tracks is a great phrase used to describe transcendent music. When the Dead are in the zone, no song stops time in its tracks like “Morning Dew.”

            The band exhibits their extraordinary powers during the first instrumental as they transition from the silence and stillness of the song to the controlled atomic blast of the jam. Jerry sneaks in a run of screaming exclamation notes before the return to solemn stillness. It’s so quiet you can hear people’s thoughts as Jerry cries out, “I guess it doesn’t matter anyway!” four times.

            Textbook execution, escalation, and emotion fill the final jam of the 5-26-72 “Morning Dew.” This was probably the best “Morning Dew” the band played up to this point. There are many hotter and longer “Morning Dew” jams after this night—9-21-72 Philadelphia Spectrum, 9-11-73 Williamsburg, 10-19-73 Oklahoma City, and 9-10-74 London’s Alexandria Palace, just to name a few. However, this Lyceum version on Europe ’72 forever immortalized “Morning Dew” as an essential Grateful Dead anthem.

            The final “I guess it doesn’t matter anyway” crashes down in the Lyceum. Out of the smoldering remains, the band reprises “The Other One” for six minutes. This transition is exotic, and there’s more “Other One” meat here than in any other portion of this incredible segment. On its own, this “Other One” doesn’t rank anywhere near the best renditions from this tour, but on this occasion it’s a facilitator, serving the greater overall good of the masterpiece. The 5-26-72 Truckin’ > Other One > Morning Dew > Other One is one of the defining musical segments of the tour. And it’s the only time in Dead history that “The Other One” sandwiches “Morning Dew.”

            A soulful crawl through “Sing Me Back Home” is followed by “Me and My Uncle.” This sets the stage for the performance of “Ramble on Rose” that would be included on Europe ’72. In the last set of a four-night stand during a tour which featured twenty-two marathon shows, Jerry delivers his finest vocal performances. I have extreme fondness for this “Ramble on Rose,” which I fell in love with the first time I heard Europe ’72. The band’s playing is sublime. Keith’s piano strokes, licks, and runs transport us to old, weird America. The leader of the band serenades London sweetly with his angelic voice. Jerry has arrived on the scene as one of the great vocalists in the world of music. The Lyceum “Morning Dew” and “Ramble on Rose” confirm that beyond reasonable doubt.

            “Sugar Magnolia,” “Casey Jones,” and “One More Saturday Night” are the final three tunes of the tour. Aside from another slightly botched ending to the jam, “Mag” rocks. Out of its role as first-set closer, “Casey Jones” shines. Savoring the sing-along, Jerry and mates deliver the last chorus with gusto nine times: “Driving that train high on cocaine. Casey Jones you better watch your speed. Trouble ahead, trouble behind. And you know that notion just crossed my mind.” A clean romp through “Saturday Night” provides the Dead with one last track for their upcoming album. They really could have used just about any “One More Saturday Night” from this tour for the album. The 4-8-72 Empire Pool “Saturday Night” reigns supreme.

            The Grateful Dead family and crew flew back to America. The Bozos and Bolos were no more. They conquered Europe and had all the material they needed for their impending live album. They also had the tapes. Those precious tapes would be released deliberately decades later. The tapes aged finer than the finest of wines and will continue to enthrall Deadheads for eternity. 


                                                              EUROPE 72 REVISITED



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Europe72 Revisited Part Twenty-One


May 25, 1972 is the next-to-last show of the Grateful Dead’s immortal tour. Here’s an excerpt from Europe 72 Revisited:

            Four standalones, “Me and My Uncle,” “Big Railroad Blues,” “Chinatown Shuffle,” and “Ramble on Rose,” start the second set. “Rose” was the darling of this group. At this juncture, one might believe this is an off night by the standards of this tour. But to give up on any show from Europe ’72 is foolhardy. “Uncle John’s Band” commences a stunning, three-song segment of Garcia tunes. Jerry delivers a dazzling between-verse solo. At the end of “UJB,” the band noodles into what sounds like “Dark Star,” but they take a “Wharf Rat” detour. Since we know that “Dark Star” is inevitable because “The Other One” was last night’s masterpiece, “The Rat” is a welcome anticipation builder.

            A mesmerizing crawl through “Wharf Rat” doesn’t break stride as it glides into “Dark Star.” Keith’s feathery piano licks help set the stage as a dreamy aura fills this voyage. The jam builds with methodical yet euphoric intensity. After seven minutes in seventh heaven, the band opts for cosmos. Time and physics have been stripped from the equation. Phil plays individual thick notes and Jerry answers with either two or four shrill notes. They talk to each other back and forth like crickets in rhyme—celestial sounds. When the time is right, they reestablish the “Dark Star” melody, sweet and slow.

            “Into the transitive nightfall of diamonds,” sings Jerry. Billy, Phil, and Keith take over, striking up a conga-like beat with jazzy flourishes. It’s an unusual twist this early after the first verse, but it’s irresistible; the type of riffing you hope will never end. Suddenly, Mr. Lesh decides that since the tour is almost over, the time is right to bring back a “Feelin’ Groovy” jam, the first once since 5-4-72 Paris. Jerry jumps back into the fray for the next four minutes as the Dead dig the groove.

            Fragments of “Feelin’ Groovy” hang on as the Dead scuba-dive through space. They are in the thick of it all: comets, meteor showers, shooting stars, solar explosions. The band doesn’t want this last European “Dark Star” expedition to end. After thirty-four minutes, Weir strikes a chord that suggests “Sugar Magnolia.” The rest of the band is jarred back to reality as they scramble to get in their last “D-Star” licks—the show must go on. 


                                                    EUROPE 72 REVISITED


Monday, May 23, 2022

Europe 72 Revisited: Part Twenty

One of the highlights of a memorable second set on 5-24-72 is Pigpen’s final performance of Turn On Your Love Light. From the pages of Europe 72 Revisited:

     “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” is the infectious second-set opener. After a trip across the border and a case of the “Mexicali Blues,” Jerry serenades London with the first “Black Peter” of the tour. The instrumentals are brief, but it’s a pleasure to hear the band dig deep into their catalogue for London.

            Prior to masterpiece theatre, there’s a fabulous, one-minute “Mexican Hat Dance” tuning. The band’s digging the groove as Garcia’s perky leads bring it on home. The 5-24-72 “Mexican Hat Dance” reminds of the 6-9-77 “Funiculi Funicula” tuning. On that occasion, a jazzed-up tuning jam leads to an epic performance of Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower. Sometimes during these mini-song tunings, you can sense the Dead are excited about what they are about to play. The combo that follows “Mexican Hat Dance” is epic.

            The 5-24-72 Truckin’ > Other One delivers everything we’ve come to expect from this tandem on this tour, and more. The first “Truckin’” instrumental explodes and then weaves and bobs. After the chorus reprise, there’s an intricate regeneration of the “Truckin’” crescendo that leads to a brief yet emphatic drum solo.

            “The Other One” blasts off and spirals round and round at supersonic speeds. Several minutes of improvisational synergy fly by and the jam dissolves and moves towards weirdness. However, Garcia rejects the slow-motion mind-melt mode. He carefully nurtures a scalding run of licks that sets off the volcano. The band bolts ahead and suddenly, the playing reaches earlier intensity levels. They segue back into a focused “Other One” jam and let it rip for a while because they’re the best damn band in the land.

            On the other side of “Spanish Lady,” the aural avalanche continues. Following several minutes of fiery playing, Phil thumps a repetitive bass line that leads the band into funky fusion. Weir’s riffs are spicy as Keith plunks chords to accent the jazzy feel. Billy holds it all together with tight yet assertive drumming. Jerry cuts loose in the style of the great jazz guitarist John McLaughlin. For a solid ten minutes or so, the jam sounds like it might be off a classic fusion album like Black Beauty: Miles Davis Live at Fillmore West. On the night Black Beauty was recorded, April 10, 1970, Miles Davis opened for the Grateful Dead in the Fillmore West.

            The outstanding jazz segment spins into flammable combustion—Garcia shredding on the precipice of madness. The band finds a route back to “The Other One” theme and they step on the gas with a dizzying cyclone instrumental. This Lyceum rendition is up there with anything from this tour—or any tour. “Sing Me Back Home” comes off like a healing salve after the intensity of “The Other One.”

            “Sugar Magnolia” brings the set back to danceable rock and roll basics. The instrumental steams, and the best part is the way the band savors the chord progression down the homestretch. When they nail the tempo of a “Mag” jam just right, it’s glorious. You can feel the entire Lyceum bopping with the Dead.

            Pigpen’s final “Turn on Your Love Light” follows. “Love Light” was first recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1961. The Dead debuted “Love Light” on July18, 1967, at the Masonic Temple in Portland, Oregon. The first known Dead tape with “Love Light” is from Toronto on August 5, 1967. Pigpen discovered his inspiration for this number when he saw James Cotton play “Turn on Your Love Light” when Cotton opened for the Dead in 1966. Following Pigpen’s final version, the Dead didn’t play “Love Light” again until they returned to Europe and played it in Amsterdam on October 16, 1981, on Bobby Weir’s 34th birthday.

            Getting back to the Lyceum Theatre, this is another astounding “Love Light.” It doesn’t have the abundance of Garcia jamming like the versions from 4-26-72 Frankfurt or 5-7-72 Bickershaw, but it satisfies in its own magical way. Pigpen raps more than he did on the other versions, and 5-24-72 has a bit more of the freewheeling feel of a 1969 version. The band delivers two solid jams here. The chord riffing is clever throughout, and the dramatic ending segues into a poignant “The Stranger.” At last, we get a Pigpen combo at one of his final shows. “One More Saturday Night” returns to its usual encore slot after a night off. 


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