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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