Just another Thursday night at L’Olympia opens with Greatest Story Ever Told, not quite as torrid as some but good for getting warmed up. Likewise, Deal is significantly slower than the set-closing versions of the future.
Skipping to Playing In The Band, Phil steps up around 2:00 and imbues the sound with more color while doing not much you can specifically point to. This recording sports a warmth that you can really appreciate once they hit the jam. Everyone is sitting in their own spots around your ears/brain very comfortably. The music itself is an easy, flowing sort of space before they pick up the pace slightly and make a smooth re-entry into the song’s atmosphere.
You Win Again is not a personal favorite in the catalog. However, the Hank Williams tune sounds very good placed here after PITB, with Pig up enough in the mix and Keith fashioning an old-school break. On the other hand, It Hurts Me Too seems even slower than usual in the next spot and drags.
After so many listens to Europe ’72‘s He’s Gone, Pigpen’s organ in this mix provides a nice twist — as does Keith’s little run at the very end, a little lustre for this particular version. El Paso is still El Paso … Bill’s trance-inducing ride cymbal and how Phil steps up in the bridge may be the best parts.
The keyboardists are the subtle stars of Big Railroad Blues, between Keith pushing things in his solo and Pigpen firing that piston on the off-beat everywhere else. Just as You Win Again benefited from its post-Playing slot, Casey Jones sounds better after Two Souls In Communion, aided in part by an outro that doesn’t sound totally coke-fueled and off the rails. And that’s the set.
The keyboardists are the subtle stars of Big Railroad Blues, between Keith pushing things in his solo and Pigpen firing that piston on the off-beat everywhere else.
A Pigpen-heavy night continues, ending the short break with the longest Good Lovin’ (23 minutes) of the tour. I’m really in it more for the jam than for Pig’s sexual predilections, but as usual, the band works hard as Pig does his thing. After three more first-set type songs, the stage is set for the evening’s main excursion.
39 Minutes Of Dark Star
The entire group finds itself instantly in a good space as Dark Star begins taxiing on the runway. A flourish around 3:00 and Bob and Keith fall into a more insistent figure, with Keith driving that thought a little further. When things devolve around 5:00, Jerry alights on a stream of eighth notes — not as much a freakout as a moderately caffeinated dash, on a schedule to get somewhere.
Eleven minutes in, we drop back into a distilled version of the main riff; recognition and appreciative applause twinkles around the room as the first verse arrives a minute later.
By 16:00, ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, and it feels very comfortable. A few interstellar rumbles and a little weirdness give way to Bill around 19:30. A few minutes later, hints of the actual song start to re-emerge the way those tiny water bubbles begin to form on the bottom of a heated pan, slowly releasing and then rising to the top.
The sound organizes itself further through a mellower portion of the program, and then on into a chugging groove that might have been headed toward either Caution or GDTRFB.
Around 32:00, Jerry is the last to accept the invitation to a brief MLB jam, followed by more goodness and finally a bonus return to the theme and the second verse. Phil staggers his background vocals as usual on “nightfall of diamonds”, and that last melody line steps gingerly into the peculiar guitar/bass moment familiar to everyone who heard it so often as the “intro” to Sugar Magnolia on Europe ’72.
No full-on freakout in those 39 minutes, just dynamic exploration and a return to form after the previous night’s occasional wandering. Here’s part 1 (the others are posted, too):
A Few Overachievers
From there, Pigpen’s organ wafts over the sparse Sing Me Back Home, Mexicali Blues sounds better than it should (must be wise placement again), and Big Boss Man (normally a skipped track) is worth it for the solo. Uncle John’s Band has a couple of less elegant moments in its solo, but it’s an easygoing, comfy version, with Phil hitting a cookin’ stride in the outro.
GDTRFB has some searing solos riding shotgun in front of a very nice coda, while Not Fade Away is on par for the tour (i.e., pretty hot), replete with a near-ridiculous “coliseum ending.”
One More Saturday Night wins the encore sweepstakes. Again, for those used to Europe ’72, Pig’s organ provides another welcome layer to the sound. A solo that resembles creative welding doesn’t hurt, the guys rip up the ending, and from there it’s a couple days off to cross the Channel and load in for the Bickershaw Festival.
5/4/72 @ L’Olympia
CD1 – greatest story ever told / deal / mr. charlie / BIODTL / brown-eyed women / chinatown shuffle / playing in the band / you win again / it hurts me too / he’s gone / el paso
CD2 – big railroad blues / the stranger (two souls in communion) / casey jones // good lovin’ / next time you see me / ramble on rose / jack straw
CD3 – dark star > drums > dark star > sugar magnolia > sing me back home
CD4 – mexicali blues / big boss man / uncle john’s band / NFA > GDTRFB > NFA / one more saturday night