|satellite view of the Dead lighting up downtown Cleveland|
It is peak fall in my neck of the woods, and fall '72 feels very right right now. So here are some scattered observations about this show, not one for the "best of 72" list but a very enjoyable one, marred by a poor quality recording, and one that caught my eye for a couple of setlist oddities. Not to mention another big ol' Dark Star.
So, the Dead in Cleveland. Someone help me here: there's a Cleveland Convention Center with two venues, the smaller Music Hall and the larger Public Hall. The Dead played the Public Hall in 1972, 73, 79, and 80, but played the Music Hall in 1970, 78, and 81 -- is that right? There are pics of 12/6/73 in a larger art deco auditorium with a huge stage, which is said to be the Public Hall.
The Rowan Brothers opened this show, according to this review.
Like a lot of later fall 72 tapes, the mix stinks. I've seen many of these fall 72 sbds referred to as "monitor mixes" and I have repeated that myself, but I don't think that's accurate: from what I understand now, the band didn't have a separate monitor feed in 1972, let alone individual monitor mixes for different bandmembers. So my guess is that this tape (made by Bear) is a straight sbd feed. Vocals and drums are the loudest, Lesh's bass is the lowest, and the guitars and piano move around. It's what we've got.
Weir picks the opener for the show, but Garcia's first two choices this evening are Friend of the Devil and China>Rider. I have opined elsewhere that 9/21/72 has perhaps Garcia's most inspired opening gambit (Bird Song and China>Rider), but this sure ain't a bad way to get the ball rolling. As far as I can tell, this was the earliest placement in a show that FOTD ever had (with the Dead at any rate; dunno about JGB).
Another first set highlight is a spirited Box of Rain. I like how Weir screams loudly as Lesh counts it off. Weir screams a lot during this show.
Weir's mic craps out during Bobby McGee, prompting a pause for a replacement. Garcia noodles Teddy Bear's Picnic. Evidently someone from the crowd is throwing marshmellows onstage, which nobody in the band seems particular fazed about.
They play Candyman for the first time in just over a year.
Playing in the Band is, no surprise, another late '72 monster, nothing too unusual for the period, but whoa. Hard to fully assess what's happening here since the bass is so low, but Garcia and Kreutzmann are locked in like Coltrane and Elvin Jones, and the peak they hit @15:45 is wonderful (hear Weir holler in delight, yet again). There's a long, luscious swim back to the reprise that's marred by a small cut, but this one is still a keeper.
Opening the second set with He's Gone seems like the move of a supremely confident band. It wasn't actually that unusual a move in fall 72, but it happened rarely after that.
Greatest Story Ever Told is a freakin' rager! I mean they all are, but this one is extra hot. Jerrrry.
Attics of My Life! This was the second of only two played that year, and the last one in front of an audience until 1989! Oh woe. It sounds so good.
This Big River is not a particularly noteworthy one, but it does inaugurate a brief and unexpected tradition of Big River preceding a really heavy duty Dark Star (see also 2/15/73, 10/19/73, 10/30/73, 11/11/73, 12/6/73, 9/10/74 - weird, right?)
Roadmap to this monster Dark Star: This initial jam feels like I'm lost in a dark forest, groping towards bright lights in the distance. Lesh's bass is audible, but still lower than everything else. After 5 minutes, they smoothly pick up the tempo, Garcia sizzling away as Godchaux skips stones behind him; they're mostly cruising along in good ol' A mixolydian, and Garcia builds to a beautiful peak at 9:30ish, then settles thing down as he glides into the first verse a couple minutes later. Things proceed as usual as they ease back and Lesh takes center stage... he doodles around, Garcia and Kreutzmann join in, but just when things seem like they're about to tip over into darkness, Lesh begins strumming the chords of the theme that's now known for posterity as the "Philo Stomp" jam. Not a fan of that name, but oh well. It's an incongruously perky little thing, but everyone joins in and Garcia pulls back into the Dark star mode, and this just sounds triumphant. Check out him trilling @19:30! Oh man. By 22 min, Garcia has twisted off in a weirder direction and they start building to a Tiger, albeit via the scenic route. It boils over at 24:45, rages hard for a minute, then abruptly stops. They splash around for the final two minutes; I hear no piano here at all; and then Bob boots 'em into Sugar Magnolia. I wouldn't call this a Dark Star for the ages, nor even one in the top tier of 1972, but we're still talking about a full 3-course meal here; just stunning that something like this is second-level for the year.
This Dark Star, for me, will forever be associated with Dick Latvala's epic introduction from the Grateful Dead Hour, which was once upon a time the only source for this jam. Treat yourself to a listen. Dick sounds like he just snorked down a bongwater martini and would have been in no shape whatsoever to deliver a lengthy seaside chat. "My armpit left the universe." God bless ya, Dick.
Nice touch in Sugar Magnolia: during the pause before Sunshine Daydream, you can hear Bob jokingly tell Donna as she walks out, "take your time, take your time."
Casey Jones shuts things down with a classic drawn-out, hellraising ending. It sounds like Weir is telling someone down front to be careful and take it easy. He also keeps screaming his head off. Shoot the moon, Bobby, shoot the moon.