Not a lot of tuning and we jump right into “Bertha”! Jerry muffs most of the second verse! Jerry blows the beginning of the third verse! Maybe he’ll make up for it in the solo!
Eh, not so much.
Early Ups & Downs
“Me And My Uncle” has some snap to it, and listen to Lesh’s three-note announcement that we have arrived at the solo. Otherwise, Garcia misses a note on the final run, and we move on to a typical “Mr. Charlie”. It’s Bob’s turn to have some trouble with a figure on the “China Cat Sunflower” intro. The transition is such a work-in-progress (on this night, anyway) that you can hear his verbal cue to slow everybody down enough for the first “I Know You Rider” verse.
“Black Throated Wind” features more fine work from Phil as we move through the song. He continues into “Loser”, where Bob doing that peculiar Bob thing is another easily overlooked pleasure. “El Paso” features another Garcia misstep at the very end. While “He’s Gone” sounds like a rebound, they had to resort to the overdubbed tape from Europe ’72 here, so its sweetness is hard to trust.
Garcia sounds more engaged for the 13-minute “Playing In The Band”, flashing some chops at the start of the jam and then handing it back to the group mind. However, the group was not that interested in running with it, so Garcia stepped up again. A decent performance was followed by several typically professional fixed-length songs.
“Casey Jones” closes the set, aided by Weir stinging the song forward with his tone. (There’s something amusing and/or suspicious about a song where the lyrics warn over and over to “watch your speed” while the music is getting faster.)
From trains to “Truckin'”, that engine turns over on the first try and the second set gets off to a good start. All cylinders firing, the second solo break catches a spark and Pigpen is sounding good on the Hammond. Nine minutes and it could’ve gone longer before the drums took over.
Phil announces the arrival of “The Other One” and that’s the vehicle for the next 33 minutes. This version covers a lot of territory, from typical “Other One” jamming to total deep-space freakout, with a couple of “what should we do next?” interludes in the mix.
My favorite bits are a jazzy side trip in the first several minutes and then a section right toward the end. Garcia sprays pretty, incandescent chords into the hall, spaced evenly a few seconds apart, to cool off one jam. Bob and Phil join him for a trio turn. This sounds at first like they’re feeling their way around in the dark, but it becomes an interesting and cohesive little semi-Spanish jam, with Lesh and Weir doing some cool stuff behind Garcia. A quiet, bold and interesting passage.
The headspinning contrast is pleasant when its Bobby McGee’s chord is almost immediately washed over by the return of the Other One beast, taking one last two-minute dash through the lily fields.
Weir insinuates the beginning chords of “Me & Bobby McGee” and gets into the verse pretty quickly. A wave of applause greets the first line. The song may seem unusual on paper here, but it sounds quite nice as sort of a calming salve to the hot and less predictable environment that came before it.
Likewise, the headspinning contrast is pleasant when its last chord is almost immediately washed over by the return of the “Other One” beast, taking one last two-minute dash through the lily fields.
Not quite free of the “Other One” vibe, the “Wharf Rat” intro comes off a little more ominously than usual, and Garcia’s tone in general sounds heavier, more like his ’78 sound. No extended solo or outro here, and that brings about 62 minutes of music to a close.
Sing Me Back To The Hotel
“Beat It On Down The Line” suffers one of the worst openings you’ll hear, but Garcia salvages the song with some flat-out soloing. I’m not sure if a particularly large percentage of Holland’s ex-con population was present for this show. Or maybe Merle Haggard has Dutch ancestry I’m not aware of, but “Sing Me Back Home” gets an especially warm round of applause as it concludes.
That’s followed by a strong “Sugar Magnolia”, with a Phil/drums hint toward “Good Lovin'” at the end that is vetoed in favor of the usual “NFA>GDTRFB>NFA” sandwich. That trio is fine if not super-intense. I think the “Other One” sequence took a little more out of ’em tonight, and that hunch (along with my early Garcia hunch) gets a tad more support from the lack of an encore.
Of course, a partially off Grateful Dead night in 1972 is still better than a lot of years’ good nights. But the level of occasional discombobulation is too great to ignore, and I don’t think it’s just because I really love “Bertha” and hate to see her treated that way.
Maybe Rotterdam was spectacular enough that it could’ve carried the bulk of the weight for a discussed two-show box set. We’ll see soon enough …
Grateful Dead / 5/10/72 @ Concertgebouw / Amsterdam, Holland
CD1 – bertha / me & my uncle / mr. charlie / china cat sunflower > i know you rider / black-throated wind / loser / next time you see me / el paso / he’s gone / chinatown shuffle
CD2 – playing in the band / big railroad blues / jack straw / tennessee jed / big boss man / greatest story ever told / casey jones
CD3 – truckin’ > drums > the other one > me and bobby mcgee > the other one > wharf rat
CD4 – beat it on down the line / the stranger (two souls in communion) / ramble on rose / sing me back home / sugar magnolia / NFA > GDTRFB > NFA