Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grateful Dead 1972-10-18

The (Fabulous) Fox Theatre, St. Louis
SBD recording can be streamed on archive.org
(The most interesting part of this post is the part about the 2nd set ;)

I recently read a great review of this show at the Grateful Dead Listening Guide (a highly recommended blog), and figured it was about time I gave it a listen myself. Or gave it another listen - I have lost track of exactly which shows I've heard and which I've not, since I have 300+ GD shows in FLAC format, and maybe just as many on audio cd. At one point I was working on a system to keep track of just which shows I'd heard as well as personal comments for each show, but I kinda gave up on that and figured that at one point or another I'll have heard them all and remember roughly the outstanding ones. And then there's this blog, where I can write and publish my thoughts about individual shows and other music topics.

Anyhow, let's get on to the show! Bertha kickstarts the evening, a slightly laidback version, which I think is nice. After Me and my uncle Phil strums some deep notes, which makes Bobby remark that "those happy sounds are just Phil exorcising the evil spirits from the amplifiers." :) Don't Ease Me In follows, a song which always makes me think of Primal Dead. The show continues with Mexicali Blues, Brown Eyed Women and Beat It On Down The Line, and in my ears they're all well done with nothing to complain about, yet there's nothing to write home about so far. BIODTL has a 14 beat intro and after those 14 beats the entire band stumbles before they pull it together.

As one could expect in '72, the first jam excursion comes in a mid-1st-set Bird Song. I've loved this song since I first heard it covered by the Norwegian band The International Tussler Society (that was before I got to know the Dead). Focused soloing from Garcia, some really dynamic drumming and the rest of the band in a jazzy mood makes this a good version, but maybe not spectacular. (It must be noted that I didn't pay attention to it all of the time - multitasking is something I try to avoid, but tonight it happened). After the second chorus there is another improv section, with some great interplay between Garcia and Weir!

Big River is next, and it's one of very few Dead covers I find somewhat boring. This one, however, has some very cool Philness, a kind of funky, smooth-rolling bass playing, which makes it slightly more interesting. The two next songs, Loser and Jack Straw are two of my (many) favorite Dead tunes, and they're both beautifully executed. Loser still has "Sweet Suzie" intact (after 1972, Garcia usually sang "Last fair deal in the country" without the ", Sweet Suzie" tag at the end of that line). Jack Straw is tight and enthusiastic.

Big Railroad Blues is a song which occasionally pops into my mind, but it's rare that I choose to listen to it. This version is, as usual, jumping along the tracks, another enthusiastic performance. El Paso is great as always, preceded by a "Merry-Go-Round (?) tuning". Personall I dig the story and even more I dig Garcias great background playing.

Well, now comes the real beef of this show. They finish the 1st set with a China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider which, of course, is great.

And then, and now I listen in anticipation, the 2nd set. Playin' In The Band -> Drums -> Dark Star -> Morning Dew -> Playin' In The Band - now that's what I call a mighty fine sequence of music! As one expects they drop into the jam after the second chorus, and Weir holds it up while Garcia turns on his Mutron and starts some delicate, soft soloing. He sounds like a lion lying back there, moving in slowly, locating the exact point of attack. And Weir walking around, holding up the structure. 5 minutes into Playin' they're moving towards each other, with Phil & Billy providing the ever-changing structures around them. They slow down slightly, but very quickly find themselves taking off again, then taking it down slightly again, and back into the high gear. It's funky and textured, and hey, there's Keith as well! Ah, I love to hear how they all synch up to each other, how extremely well it all fits! I'm once again convinced that this band had a collective conciousness, they must've had, I don't know how else to explain it. At about 13 minutes into it, something happens, they're moving towards something now, the flavor is different. Soon the drums take over, and I know that Dark Star is coming.

My god. Dark Star. Is there anything better than a Dark Star? I don't think so. At least not musically. The intro comes perfectly and goes straight into a familiar-sounding territory built upon Weir and Garcia's beautiful interplay. It stays there, and eventually goes into a smooth, jazzy and somewhat sad landscape, with Garcia making some wailing sounds with his guitar which sounds almost like a pedal steel. They move out of this, and back again. It's wonderful. After 6 minutes they drop into a hollow, dark place, and I'm curious at how they'll get out of this. They wander around for a while, and then Phil leads the way out into what is probably the first verse of this star, approx. 10 minutes into it. I can feel the energy while listening now, it's groovy, it's good, it flows smoothly and yes, here's the first verse. It never ceases to amaze me, how they can flawlessly weave together the few constant elements of this song with such amazing improvisation! Wow!

The way continues and oh boy, listen to Jerry at 14 minutes into the star and let the melody that folows caress your spine. Breathtaking skin-tingling beauty in my ears.

At around 21 minutes, Phil has his moment of delicate, fat bass soloing, something I really dig! And after a couple of minutes he starts a rockin' riff! Supercool, and Bob & Jerry are still waiting, while Billy joins in for a Drum & Bass session which rocks like waves upon a shore. Jerry smoothly joins the fun, complementing Phil's soloing. After that we get the 4-chord jam which has been labeled a.o. "Feelin' Groovy" and which later became prominent in the transition from China Cat Sunflower to I Know You Rider.

And not much later. Oh, wow. Out of nowhere comes the intro to Morning Dew. Ah. Isn't it one of the most beautiful songs ever? I have never heard Bonnie Dobson's original version, but I can't really imagine any version of this song being better than the Dead did it. Period. Garcia's sweet voice and heartfelt empathy is more than perfect for this song, and coupled with the rest of the band's just as sweet playing, this one's a winner every time! This October evening is no exception. It floats and swirls wonderfully, truly a song that's born to soar the sky! Yet again the interplay is perfect and you can really hear Jerry singing from his heart, Keith adding even more sweetness at the just exactly appropriate points. "I guess it doesn't matter..." sings Garcia, sweetly, and then they slowly start the build up. They take their time, there's no rush. And oh! Just when you anticipate the ultimate climax - what happens? I don't know if this was planned or what, but hey!! There's no "I GUESS IT DOESN'T MATTER AAAAANYYYWAAYYYYYY!" - no, they smoothly jump into - yes! - a jam that leads them back into the starting point - Playin' In The Band! Whoa! Well, I knew it, because I've read other reviews of this show, but still! If I'm not mistaken it's a unique event.

Well, after this 1 hour jam trip, I certainly understand their need to do some "regular" songs, and there's really no need to go out on another far out journey at this point. They continue the 2nd set with a very funky and jumpy Deal, a song I really like. The Promised Land is quite boring in my ears, as I've grown tired of it. Next up is, luckily, one of the most beautiful songs ever to grace this earth:
Brokedown Palace. And I really have no words for this song. It's so beautiful, there's nothing to do but listen to it. Live, it's not quite the same as on American Beauty, but it's still wonderful and heartfelt, with great harmonies and beautiful playing. Garcia delivers a beautiful solo, before the greatest part of the song.

Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell

They end the evening on an up-beat feeling with One More Saturday Night and Casey Jones.

I'm left with one thought which, as so many times before, seems to sum it all up:
...listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul