Grateful Dead – 5/11/72 Rotterdam (Europe ’72, Vol. 15)

After listening to the Amsterdam show, I had to wonder whether Rotterdam would find a groove where the previous night hadn’t, sort of like the second night in Paris did for the first. The relaxed, surprising, and satisfying “Playing In The Band” opener said maybe so (despite a tepid reaction to a treat opener).

“Sugaree” followed and unlike so many of subsequent years, it didn’t outstay its welcome at a svelte seven minutes. You could focus on nothing but Phil in this version and be happy.

“Deal” and “Mexicali Blues” stand out among the next few standards, due to added color from Godchaux and Garcia, respectively. Amsterdam’s “China>Rider” got away from the guys by the time the transition came around, so it’s not surprising that they pulled the reins in a little here. It runs at a cooler temperature but still contains good stuff. Of the rest of the set, you won’t find any bum performances, but “Brown-Eyed Women” is my highlight for its combination of songwriting and execution.

This officially becomes “surprise opener” night once the second set commences with “Morning Dew”. Everyone sounds into it, with Lesh prominent and Garcia delivering a fine if slightly ragged vocal. Weir’s broken string may have contributed to the lack of dynamics as it progressed toward the climax, too. But as a tour debut (one of only two in Europe and four all year), it’s more than good enough.

“El Paso” is the next tune to warrant mention, believe it or not. Can’t explain it — you know sometimes an old chestnut sounds warmer and better than usual.

48-Minute Interstellar Roundtrip

The night’s main course is another worthwhile ’72 “Dark Star”. It gets off to a strong start, fast to get everyone into an engaged and engaging space until it cools off around 2:30. Garcia comes up with a stuttering, circular riff that draws in Phil. That carries the next few minutes until a contemplative and pretty passage that eventually gives way to a new, jazzy attitude around 9:00.

Kreutzmann gives the guys a break until Phil shows up, flipping a quarter and whistling a tune as he strolls down the street. A couple of minutes later, Garcia joins in with a slightly muted tone and an inspired string of notes, flashing some Fred Astaire footwork across the firmament.

About halfway through, they return to the theme, slow and lovely and then the first verse. Lesh lurks around the bottom until Garcia pulls the band briefly through “Other One” territory and on into space. The drums are barely there but Pigpen makes his first appearance. Around 30 minutes in, we reach deep, harrowing, scary space. Five minutes of that yields to more a hot, hot re-entry jam, still largely drumless.

Kreutzmann gives the guys a break until Phil shows up, flipping a quarter and whistling a tune as he strolls down the street. A couple of minutes later, Garcia joins in with a slightly muted tone and an inspired string of notes, flashing some Fred Astaire footwork across the firmament

Some genre-less jamming points to something more jazzy around 40:00, and you can hear Bill and Bob connect on a little “Playing” foundation in there. Some nice basic improv follows and it’s hard to tell where we might be going — “Caution” and “Truckin'” sound like they’re within sight of this road. But Phil starts to bring back the theme in fragments and hints.

Odd but oddly pleasing, this journey ends with less of a roar than a whisper as Garcia and Lesh tiptoe out of a 48-minute “Dark Star”.

Pigpen’s Turn

Weir calls “Sugar Magnolia” as the follow-up. By the time we get to “Sunshine Daydream”, you get the feeling Kreutzmann is just itching to get this moving somewhere. Garcia eventually scrubs his strings for a few seconds, and then Phil thumps in with the chordal warning that you should not stop on the tracks.

The next 15 minutes is the last Pigpen “Caution”. The song wouldn’t resurface until two years later, as a jam in the fine 9/18 Dijon show. Weir drives the first section, his dense and intense rhythm work providing the spine of the sound. Each member adds some highlights at one point or another, either before or during Pig’s vocals. Eventually they’re just choogling along until what also turned out to be a quick last-ever swerve through “Who Do You Love?”.

“Truckin'” doesn’t try
to continue the energy from “Caution”, a little slower and feeling like a victory lap for the 80 minutes of music it caps. Still, Pig’s Hammond is swirling and chugging in the middle of the sound, and Garcia shows no signs of fatigue as he burns it up in spots.

Eventually, it just sort of finds a place to sit down and end, and the same crowd that responded to that “Playing” opener with a collective “meh” can be heard bleeding into the mics with quite a bit more enthusiasm.

One For The Road

Almost immediately (if the tape is to be believed), Phil unspools a chilled “Uncle John’s Band” riff, and Jerry falls in for what will be a mellow, electric-folkish version. Sounds like Pigpen occupies himself with some percussion, and it helps. Garcia turns in a solo much better than the one from the song’s last outing, and the strong performance ends the set.

There’s conflicting info about whether an encore was played after it or not, but “Uncle John’s Band” more than upholds the spirit of the term, giving Rotterdam an extra little something to send them out and homeward.


Grateful Dead / 5/11/72 @ Grote Zaal De Doelen / Rotterdam, Holland

CD1playing in the band / sugaree / mr. charlie / black throated wind / deal / chinatown shuffle / mexicali blues / china cat sunflower > i know you rider
CD2 – jack straw / big railroad blues / good lovin’ / casey jones / morning dew / me and my uncle / the stranger (two souls in communion) / el paso / tennessee jed / next time you see me
CD3dark star > drums > dark star
CD4 sugar magnolia > caution (do not stop on tracks) > truckin’ / uncle john’s band

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