If it’s true that one proposed title for Europe ’72 was Europe On $5,000 A Day, then it would’ve done all right to start with the beginning of this night. We fade in to a crowd already primed, chanting and clapping.
Even better, the set kicks off with Bertha, and (as the time/space continuum would have it) a ’72 Bertha at that. Except for Pig being too far back in the mix, this is a mighty fine version, and I say that as someone who feels connected to the song’s rhythm and composition like a lot of people probably feel connected to Not Fade Away.
Keith sets the tone for much of his first set with some bluesy, barrelhouse rhythm work throughout. And naturally, the performance reaches its altitude on the wings of Garcia’s solo — that just exactly perfect tone, eventually finding its way upward only to ride small spirals of notes back down again.
I would’ve been a bigger fan sooner if this song had made it to Europe ’72, my first album-length contact as it was for so many others. Guess including it didn’t make too much sense that soon after its Skull & Roses debut in the official catalog.
The next stretch of the long first set is typical enough, but listening to it, I was more conscious of its … Americanness, thinking about the occasion and location. Let’s hit some highlights and random observations:
– Garcia deploys a bunch of familiar riffs, fiery in delivery, for songs that call for it. Really love that lower-string triplet wrapup on the Me & My Uncle solo.
– Sugaree is so much better at 7 minutes than at 17 minutes. Something about Phil’s simple verse part makes me wish that just once they’d turn into Floyd Cramer’s 1960 hit, “Last Date”. I’d bet $50 that Keith knew it.
– Black-Throated Wind sounds like Bob doing a Glen Campbell thing. Well, until a chorus that is just shouty and musically odd enough to break that spell.
– Sounds like Keith hadn’t learned the He’s Gone bridge yet, which is slightly amusing.
– Garcia plays a nicely busy part behind Pigpen on the second half of Pig’s solo on Next Time You See Me. And is that the best Tennessee Jed solo ever?
China>Rider Deserves The Love
This China>Rider deserves the attention it has received over the years, a showcase for everyone making arrangement contributions that boost the overall effect. Jerry/Bob/Keith stake out spaces immediately for the first verse while Phil lays back.
Listen to the space and lines that Keith finds within the mix between the first and second verse. Phil gets less polite a couple of minutes in, thumping some chords and bearing down to keep things interesting.
Keith leads them up and into the transition jam, where this recording offers the beautifully simple, crisp sound of Bill riding that cymbal with some fills thrown in. Meanwhile, Godchaux keeps a low profile through the jam itself until it reaches the I Know You Rider vamp, where it turns out he’s been waiting with a rhythm part all along to move things into the next section.
Godchaux yet again sparkles, this time between the lines in the headlight verse. And after a night (thus far) of run-based solos, Garcia chooses a more architectural approach to take us into the a capella finale. the crowd’s most enthusiastic response of the set.
Overrated Main Event
The guys warm up to start set two with a few average to good numbers, and then they’re ready for the night’s main event, Truckin’ > The Other One > Drums > Other One > Me & Bobby McGee > Other One > Wharf Rat.
This suite has earned some rave reviews, but honestly, it doesn’t do much for me. Set aside a semi-traditional lyric flub in “Truckin'”. The brevity of some “Other One” sections and a lot of indecision about how to get into “The Other One”, combined with multiple dissolutions into quietness, prevent the suite from reaching a sense of cohesion and/or real momentum that the great ones tend to achieve.
The Pig Abides
This sequence does have a few positives. The mix makes room for Pigpen and Truckin’ is better for it. Pig also puts a great, eerie, floating chord over the proceedings around 22:00 that really adds to the mood. Not long before that, the way Bob and Phil play with the song’s stripped-down basics almost by themselves is interesting.
Once they get to something resembling full speed, Keith ornaments the section with some sweet runs down the keyboard. But all in all, the best is found in the most structured environment of the Bobby>Other>Wharf Rat conclusion.
A little Wharf Rat dust still lingers in the air and may have contributed to a (not slower but) delicate feel to Jack Straw to start, especially in Garcia’s vocals. I like it, although I do miss the longer outro of years to come.
Pigpen is having a pretty good night, punctuated by his energetic “love is love” countervocals on Not Fade Away and then his choogling instrumental work in the One More Saturday Night encore.
Bob’s a little hoarse by the time we hit the last mini-suite, but nobody minds. As would also be the case in later years, Garcia plays better when he gets pushed by the keyboards. One of my favorite Dead moments is the And We Bid You Goodnight interlude in GDTRFB, and Phil and Bob both lay in some nice parts there.
Pigpen is having a pretty good night (when you can hear him), punctuated by his energetic “love is love” countervocals on Not Fade Away and then his choogling instrumental work in the One More Saturday Night encore. Garcia adds some extended gymnastics to make the ending a little more epic.
And on that note, we fade out on crowd chants, just as we entered, except a lot more tired and ready for night two in the City of Lights.
5/3/72 @ L’Olympia
CD1: bertha / me and my uncle / mr. charlie / sugaree / black-throated wind / chinatown shuffle / china cat sunflower > i know you rider / beat it on down the line / he’s gone / next time you see me / playing in the band (set break)
CD2: tennessee jed / good lovin’ / sing me back home / casey jones / greatest story every told / ramble on rose / hurts me too
CD3: truckin’ > the other one > drums > the other one > me and bobby mcgee > the other one > wharf rat
CD4: jack straw / sugar magnolia > not fade away > goin’ down the road feeling bad > not fade away // one more saturday night