Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Dead: Before the Europe 3-23-1972

This Mondays Dead show catches the group before they launched their most famous tour, Europe 1972.  The band stationed themselves in fantastic New York City for a few weeks pre-trip to make sure things were ready for the Bozo's to bombard the old country and they figured they would play a few shows as tune up.  The group has already officially released some of these shows, but today's is on par with those official releases so you can save some bucks as your relive the pre tour jitters with the group before they high stepped it across the Atlantic. 
 Today's show is 3-23-1972, at the New York Academy of Music.  Click that link or Stream the show live here:

 It is odd that I haven't presented more 1972 here at RTBE, as it is arguably the groups finest year.  It also seems to be their most well documented year with tons of official releases, pristine tapes and recordings.  I guess I want to highlight some lesser known years and shows, but I hope to hit some classics in the upcoming winter months and that will no doubt include a fistful of '72.

What needs to be mentioned off the top is that this show is simply a perfect to listen, A+ quality all around.  Charlie Miller is a god amongst Dead Heads, and has out done himself, this has the texture and audio perfection of a official release.  You could not want more from a live show over 35 years old...ahh the magic of the Archive.

Onto the playing this night at the Academy.  Just which Academy of Music were they playing at?  This one? This One?  Well it took a bit of research, but turns out the Academy of Music, changed into the Palladium on 14th St, that use to host shows, but now just hosts NYU students. 
 A smaller venue for the boys who set up shop 7 nights in 1972 and got the kinks out before invading Europe, which would immortalized on the excellent live disk.  Tonight's first set is fucking huge and would showcase a lot of those songs that showed up on the first "set" of the live disk.  I mean you have an 18 song first set to dig into it and you should, I will just mention some spots of interest.

There are solid versions of old favorites like the opening "China>Rider" which sets a nice theme for the evening a LOUD Lesh!  There are also top notch versions of songs that would blossom in 1972, "Tennessee Jed", "Brown Eyed Women" and "Jack Straw" which is one of my favorite songs and in 1972 it was consistently performed at an apex level as it is this night.  "Mr. Charlie" fines Pigpen still giving it his all before his final days:

Other high-spots from the early going's-on's are the relaxed and stretched out "Cumberland Blues" which eases over 8 minutes and allows Phil to plop and pop on the bass with confidence and depth.  The excellent back-up vocals and crying pedal-steel guitar that Jerry employs to support Bobby in "Looks Like Rain" must be checked out.  The production and cleaning up here are evident as the pedal-steel weeps proudly then soars, a really cool twist on a pretty standard song.  A rare swinging version of "You Win Again" showcases Keith Godchaux's twinkling key work that would come to define the groups piano style for the next 8 years, letting the track play to the end allows you to hear the boys discuss the alligators in NYC's sewers; a major issue that we are all well aware of.
The first set ending foursome has some real exciting.  A tight and short (by Dead standards) "Playing In the Band" amps up the energy while "Comes A Time" showcases the balladry of Garcia along again with his closing guitar solo and Phil's well timed bass notes.  Bobby Weir takes the vocals on "Bobby McGee" and brings the thunder before a set closing cocaine fueled freight train of "Casey Jones" all winners. 
That seems like a show in and of itself, but it's just a first set.

"Truckin'" gets moving down the highway and it is a perfect synopsis of the 72 playing style.  Crisp leads from Phil, simple snare work from Billy who was once again flying solo in the drum chair, a shuffle groove on the keys and guitar leads with vocals sprinkled on top.  The adventure starts a bit later in the set, but "Truckin'" along with "Ramble on Rose" give some stability to the proceedings. 

Next comes the rare Pigpen written "Stranger (Two Souls In Communion)", one of the last contributions to the band before his death, it is a gospel tinged number that could have flourished  but never grew secure legs.  Tonight's version is heartfelt and shows that there was another songwriter in the group with McKernan, whose range was more then the Blues.  Here is a version of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes covering the tune when he came out with Furthur, Robinson does more then do this tune justice, he elevates it to what it might have become. 

After a bizarrely placed "Mexicali Blues" comes the meat and potatoes of the show, "Dark Star".  Ahhh, 1972 and Dark Star's...a match made in heaven.  The last 1972 show I discussed has one of my all-time favorite versions of this jam vehicle, like all great jam songs they can go in vastly different directions.  Today's version doesn't reach the heights of 8/27 yet it is nothing to shake a warped brain at. 

Jerry keeps the light and airey feel during the intro with Phil's bass runs also containing a light touch before the song drifts into almost nothingness.  The band re-energizes about around the 10:30 mark playing with an increasing tempo, but dip back into a more laid back trip.  Then 13 minutes in the band plays with it's LSD laced audience and starts the FrEaaaK OOuTT!?!?! for about 2 minutes before Billy tries to restore some order on drums and launches the band into a surprisingly buoyant jam piece.  Jerry shines a light on this segment at the 17 minute mark putting a smile on all faces before returning to the "Dark Star" theme 21 and a half minutes in.

This is a great example of the Dead in a nutshell; face melting dissonance into sunshine-y omnipresent rock and roll in the span of 10 minutes and doing both with ease and flair.

Pigpen gives a breather with "Big Boss Man", but then the explosive "Not Fade Away>Going Down The Road Feeling Bad> Not Fade Away" sandwich ends a career spanning set with Bobby and Pigpen screaming at each other with aggression and probably a wee bit o' bourbon; what a closer. 

This night is a kick ass show getting the crew ready for Europe on the horizon and more immediately the Hell's Angels benefit in two nights:

No comments:

Post a Comment