Berkeley Community Theater - Berkeley, CA
Set 1: Bertha, Greatest
Story Ever Told, Loser, Black Throated Wind, Friend Of The Devil,
Big River, Bird Song, Beat It On Down The Line, Tennessee Jed, Me
& My Uncle, He's Gone, Playing In The Band
Set 2: Promised Land, Brown
Eyed Women, Mexicali Blues, Truckin' > Drums > The Other One
> Stella Blue, El Paso, Ramble On Rose, Not Fade Away > Goin'
Down the Road Feeling Bad > Hey Bo Diddley, Not Fade Away
It was such a nice day, I thought I'd go
out for a change. I had never visited 8-22-72, so I dropped in &
was pleased to be seated immediately. The waiter brought the menu,
and I perused what lay in store (details printed above). As you can
see, many standard offerings, but a few promising ones as well.
How's the 'Bertha'?" It's always best to consult the waiter!
"Sorry sir; the first
three songs didn't make it tonight. But most of the first set is
fine; I particularly recommend 'Bird Song' and of course 'Playing in
'Black-Throated Wind'?" I had to ask, it being the default
"There are several
nice contributions from the pianist, including some trills."
"Would you say that
Phil was 'on' during this show?"
"That, sir, depends on
one's own personal definition, but I can tell you that he takes a
bass solo in the second set."
Well, that did sound
promising. "Anything I should avoid or skip over?" I had
My waiter considered.
"Nothing particularly stands out in 'Me and My Uncle' or
'Friend of the Devil'. Also, 'He's Gone' is missing all but the
first minute or two. And the 'Promised Land' set-closer is a
perfunctory get-off-the-stage number, evidently so the sound crew
could take care of some technical trouble."
This convinced me that
there was much worth trying. "Tell you what: I'll take 'em
"Very good, sir."
He put away his pad, and my meal began: true enough, Keith's
tinkling insertions were indeed the highlight of BTWind, and 'Bird
Song' found him contributing even more so. Phil bounces around the
sonic palate with some caution, neither dominating nor retiring from
the mix. Billy, of course, suffered a lesser presence; drums just
weren't miked so well in those days. Vocals are right out front --
not so common on 1972 soundboards -- with guitars right behind. I
found the 'Beat it On Down the Line' and 'Tennessee Jed' to be
adequate, although 'Jed' is a rather smaller protion than satisfies
(there seems to be a reel flip); a few bites short of a good
plateful. 'Uncle' was fine, neither too dry nor too sour, and
possessed of decent dynamics (and another of the aforementioned
trills), but nothing made me want to try it again. Similarly, FOTD
is played well enough without really leaving any impression; the
highlight might be Bobby's contributions.
Fortunately, 'Playing in
the Band' makes up for all of these, with 'Bird Song' as its other
figurative bookend; band interplay is richer and deeper, venturing
farther now that they are more warmed up. Both of these I recommend
without reservation -- one as the setup, the other as payoff. Sadly,
as with 'Jed', a cut reduces our portion, but in this case what
remains is quite satisfying indeed. If we are to describe Phil as
'on', that ignition would be said to start here in PITB, as Phil
seems to take the lead even more than Jerry does. This results in
rather more emphasis from Bill, and Keith follows on that like we
more usually hear him follow on Jerry. In fact, Jerry seems more of
a follower here, making for a nice blend -- a different spicing of
what is often so familiar.
After enjoying the
treasures of the first set, I felt ready for the second &
motioned for the waiter again. "I see the second set starts
with 'Brown-eyed Women' and 'Mexicali Blues'; shall I try those or
just have the main course?"
My waiter shrugged.
"I'm partial to BEW's myself, but I'll admit this isn't one of
the more remarkable ones. 'Mexicali', on the other hand, really
seems to benefit from the second-set energy. As for the main course
-- well, it's one of our house specialties, and I'm certain you will
not be disappointed."
Indeed, he was right;
8-22-72's second set features as its gem a 30-minute "Other
One' done like few other restaurants can manage. This more than
makes up for a standard-issue 'Truckin', as the band leaves behind
the salad & heads for the sauce -- after a short drum solo,
which clears the palate for all the spiciness to come.
And such a bubbly broth it
is! Billy husbands an aggressive snare, prompting Keith to
percussive commentary. Jerry, as usual, dances around the edge,
tossing salt on this side, pepper on that, offsetting Phil's
garlicky insistence. Bobby sticks to his stranger batch of herbs --
we're never sure what he's put in there, but our senses are surely
affected in ways we can't measure. Too many cooks can indeed spoil
the outcome, but they might also cook up something none of them
could have quite expected.
From a strong come-on, our
ears are gradually lifted into the delicate spaces between notes, as
each chef makes sparser and sparser contributions. Bill finally
stops altogether; we reach a taste outside time and space. Keith
makes use of minimal dissonance; Jerry goes from muted cries to
pinched comments; Bill responds with low-toned thrums. A quiet
ballad could have started here; instead, Bill begins a rhythm that
others attend & accentuate. Like 'Dark Star', they venture off
into any direction that comes up. Some of them even have words ;-)
Almost by surprise, they
return to the song what brung them, reminding us that 1972 isn't so
far from 1969 (in case we'd forgotten). And -- sure enough -- the
first chorus is followed by a Phil solo, with Billy closely
attending him. Eventually, though, Bill drops out to let Phil take
full reign of his Muse, of which there seems to be plenty: riffs,
vamps, chords pour out of him until he reintroduces the 'Other One'
theme, and the full band kicks in again. Things seem well set up for
the second vocal verse, but Something Else seems to come over the
band, and things start turning very freaky instead. Before we can
even ask 'What the --?', they become lost in a slippery slope of
sound; those familiar with the 'tiger jam' will find a close cousin
here. The band that so recently seemed in impossibly close accord
finds themselves in supremely consonant discord.
But not for long; Keith
leaves first, and they almost reach more pleasant climes as a group.
But something irresistible pulls them back, one by one, to the
complications & investigations that seem to be the theme of this
evening's fare. The second verse finally emerges, and it comes to a
close so that a quietly fine (if young) 'Stella Blue' can be served.
Very nice placement, and surprisingly mature for a song in only its
tenth known showing, with plenty of sensitivity to dynamics.
I don't recall the rest of
the evening's fare in detail, but the receipt shows a fine dessert
in the Not Fade Away segues, washed down with a nice 'Ramble On'
(and a seemingly misplaced 'El Paso'). Had it not been for all that
'Other' jamming, NFA > GDTRFB > Bo Diddley > NFA would be
pretty darn close to an entree in itself. As it is, this medley
serves as a final course, rounding out our evening with a bright
& energetic finish. I'll have to visit this restaurant again!
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 8/22/72, at the Berkeley
Community Theater - Berkeley, CA.