Old Renaissance Faire Grounds - Veneta, OR
Set 1: Promised Land,
Sugaree, Me & My Uncle, Deal, Black Throated Wind, China Cat
Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Mexicali Blues, Bertha
Set 2: Playing In The Band,
He's Gone, Jack Straw, Bird Song, Greatest Story Ever Told
Set 3: Dark Star > El
Paso, Sing Me Back Home, Sugar Magnolia, Casey Jones, One More
The Best Ever?
Purportedly one of the Great Shows, and in many opinions the Best
Ever. Let's see why:
First & foremost, the
'Dark Star'. Rare it was for them to begin a set with 'Dark Star' by
this time; soon enough it would disappear altogether. This one is
notable for its purity: like the the first 'mature' performance from
2-27-69, it is all of a piece -- no side jams, interpolations of
other songs, etc.; it's purely 'Dark Star' jams and nothing but.
Also, the boys were well into the group-groove mindset that is so
crucial to good shows, but more on that later.
So: alright, it's long
& unadulterated. What else? Lack of ego, for one; this
performance develops so 'organically' that it sounds like each
performer is simply thinking out loud, playing the way they happen
to play, and it all just magically interweaves & supports itself
-- like a house built in the air. There is a gentle sense of
religious purpose in the pre-verse jam, but things change after the
first 'chorus', becoming more urgent. The arc goes consistently up,
as the energy becomes more disjointed, without ever seeming to lose
performance only builds in intensity as they go along -- meandering
it is not, though it ebbs & flows. By the time it's over, it's
as if we've had an overview of Star history with all the best parts
highlighted. Some Stars have parts that rank among our favorite
moments; 8-27-72's Star is like a compilation of these, seamlessly
stitched & perfectly arranged. We even get a very faint hint of
a 'Groovy' jam [by Phil] some 10 minutes after the first chorus,
though it's not picked up by Jerry. Such are the delicious
subtleties buried in the overall tapestry.
Eventually we'll get a
Tiger jam, and even something of a Philo stomp, though there are
longer or more intense versions of either. But analyzing the parts
isn't a way to understand how a body functions; suffice it to say
this performance TRAVELS and then some, with nary a wasted moment on
the way. When they seem about to arrive, Jerry hints at a 'Morning
Dew', but joyfully tosses it away to follow Bobby's suggestion of
'El Paso' as the whole band jumps on the bandwagon. As silly as this
seems to some, it brings some welcome levity after the heaviness
that had preceded it, and they drift afterward into a fine 'Sing Me
Back Home'. HERE we find the real release from all that 'Dark Star'
tension -- slow, sweet, and elegiac.
Was the whole show like
this? Well, no; the first half-a-dozen songs from set one could be
the beginning of almost any late 1972 show -- and perhaps better
versions abound in the shows that followed over the next four
months. - Until the transition jam in 'China > Rider', that is;
because that's where this show takes off and never loses the magic.
Was it the venue? The extreme heat? Something in the water? All of
the above? Everyone has their own view, but nobody can deny that,
from C>R through the Dark Star segues, this show ranks up against
any & better than most.
After that, it's just the
party music to close the show, finely played & certainly
welcome. Only in 'One More Saturday Night' do we hear them wearing
down (some flat vocal harmonies), and really -- who cares by then?
It's the second encore after three sets, culminating in one of the
most expansive & profound jams of their history. If ever there
was an answer to 'What are the Grateful Dead, and what kind of music
do they play?', it can be found here.
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 8/27/72, at the Old
Renaissance Faire Grounds in Veneta, OR.