Thursday, November 11, 2021

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO 12-10-71

Grateful Dead
Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO 12-10-71
**** out of *****

1971 was a transitional year for the Grateful Dead with keyboardist Keith Godchaux joining the band and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan phasing out of things with health issues.  The band has released other shows from this period, but this show at the Fox Theater in St. Louis on December 10th 1971 definitely was special, as both keyboardists played at a high level with the group on this night. 

The two keyboardists are actually the highlights for the full show and start the festivities early as Godchaux plays wonderfully jazzy on "Sugaree" and "Loser" while Pigpen takes to his front man post with ease for great versions of "Mr. Charlie" and "Next Time You See Me". A fiery "Beat It On Down The Line" and a loose "Tennessee Jed" along with Jerry Garcia's dexterous playing on "El Paso" make up the first set highlights. 

A fun "Run Run Rudolph" also gets the holiday cheer flowing as Pigpen leads the way with Godchaux right behind on piano continuing the keyboardists successful night. A long and wandering "Good Lovin'" throws Pigpen out in front of the band, but things never really take off, showing that the group were evolving out of their 60's psych blues days when Pigpen was the defacto front man. The band was moving into their folksie cosmic cowboy era and tunes like "Brokedown Palace" and "Comes a Time" really strike a chord as the harmonies and the playing is gorgeous for both. 

That's not to say the band was not stretching out and experimenting still, this is the Dead after all. The best of the far out  playing comes in the form of "The Other One" for this show. The tune rises out of a "Truckin' >Drums" pairing like a phoenix and blazes into existence before weirdly dipping into "Sitting On Top Of The World" only to fall back into "The Other One" with pounding fury and fee jazz abandon. The closing "Not Fade Away > Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away" is a spirited sandwich and the overall the strong show ends with "One More Saturday Night" as a pumping finale.  

1971 was an interesting time for the band and while we may prefer other nights from around this one, It is hard to argue with the quality of this release. From the the gorgeous cover art to the larger Listen to the River: St. Louis '71 '72 '73 box set this comes from, the Grateful Dead team consistently puts out top notch offerings from the band and the stand alone Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO 12-10-71 continues that successful trend.
Support the band, buy the album and peep some video:

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