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Grateful Dead reviews of 10/30/72 - Ford Auditorium


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Grateful Dead reviews of 10/30/72 - Ford Auditorium

The Grateful Dead
Ford Auditorium ~ Detroit, MI

Bertha, Me And My Uncle, Deal, Black Throated Wind, Sugaree, El Paso, Bird Song, Big River, China Cat Sunflower, > I Know You Rider, Jack Straw, Don't Ease Me In, Mexicali Blues, Box Of Rain, Playing In The Band, 

Two Truckin', Ramble On Rose,  The Promised Land,  Tomorrow Is Forever,  Around And Around,  Candyman, Greatest Story Ever Told,  Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,  Sugar Magnolia, [ > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away
Encore Uncle John's Band 

It's nice to find a warm audience recording from this era -- 4/29/72 gives us the audience perspective on a marvelous tour, a nice accompaniment to the straight-up SBDs of 4/24 and 4/26 -- clean too. 9/16's AUD/SBD mix lets us travel back & forth, thankfully up front SBD for the deeper portions, and occasionally hilarious when we're waaaay out in the cheap seats ('Are you making a bootleg? Cool!') And sometimes just outright awesome, as mentioned in my review of 10/27/72.

10/30/72 rides somewhere in the middle of all these; not quite as clear as 10/27, but without direct comparison you'd never care. We're out in the audience about midway -- enough to hear the hall sound, and a moderate amount of echo [most noticeable on the vocals], but not so far that audience noise intrudes upon the band. The performance finds them largely in rock-&-roll mode (as on 11/24/72), so this is appropriate.

After a couple of warmup tunes(not helped on my copy by some annoying digital skips in 'Bertha'), things pick up in the third song ['Deal'] and never look back -- possibly due to all the obvious audience requests for 'St. Stephen' (wouldn't hear that on the SBD!). 'BTWind' starts almost tentatively, only to end on Big Notes, as Jerry & Bob vie for searing intensity. Jerry finally shushes the requests with direct repartee during the tuning that follows, to the applause of many, and a strong 'Sugaree' follows (are there any bad '72 'Sugarees'? I hope not). What makes this one special is the singing -- Jerry delivers the lyrics with a conviction rare for any era, and some melodic changes I haven't heard elsewhere.

After 'El Paso', the requests resume, another honest aspect of an Audience recording, and Jerry silences them with a sweet 'Bird Song' that shows Bobby's playing to excellent effect -- listen especially for his phased leads behind the vocal in the verses. I hesitate to make such a bold claim, but it seems there's an 'Other One' tease mid-jam here -- close enough for my ears, anyhow. This exciting tidbit is offset by a sudden flip, which at least redeems itself by sounding almost logical, coming back right on the jam-ending riff. As if to compensate for this loss, there's some extra jamming before the last verse, as if they were reluctant to let the song end. A very nice version all around.

'Big River' doesn't disappoint, and 'China > Rider' is smooth smooth smooth with a big finish -- like fine single-malt [Glenfiddich, anyone?]. This takes place mostly after the 'China Cat' portion has been dispensed with, but isn't that usually the case? Fans of the E72 version from May 3 should find a lot to like here: two peaks separate CCS from IKYR, and both are sublime, with Keith nicely audible in the mix. The 'Rider' peaks [e.g., 'headlight'] aren't so extreme as they would be later, but are perhaps more balanced -- they certainly satisfy, and leave headroom for Jerry's strident solos. This version certainly leaves one to wonder why any vocal overdubs would be necessary on E72.

I would also like to go out on another limb a bit: I'm not normally fond of 1972 Jack Straws -- they often seem a bit too tentative to convince. This show, not so; 1972 it still is, not yet the rocked-out extravaganza we find on, say, DP-10's 12/29/77. But the power is there, under the easy-coasting rhythm. Like classic Trek's Mr Spock in pon farr, its blood burns, though so seemingly held in check. After that, even 'Don't Ease' could be welcome, and [this being 1972] it might even rock!

70s snobs might point out that, 10 years later, this would have been the end of the first set -- and a good first set, at that. On the other hand, 10 years later, the second set would not be so conspicuously devoid of jams (for comparison, 10/10/82, or even the notoriously unremarkable 10/17/82 in Jamaica). Whatever -- it IS 1972, and they step up the ante with .... ahem, 'Mexicali Blues'. Wait, don't leave! ;-) While performed well, I can't say it outshines Bobby's heckling of some people in the front row just before the song starts.

More tuning, and then we get 'Box of Rain'. Boy, they really needed to find the right placement for this one; I'm not sure this is it. Still, Phil sounds pretty good -- much more like the album than his 90s approach, and Donna & Bob do nice harmonies. I guess this was one of the quieter ones, and Ms. G. could hear herself better -- important, since this is obviously a singing song as opposed to a jamming one. Keith gets in a nice climb in the final verse, and I'm looking forward to the Playing in the Band that follows ....

O foul beast that put this show into circulation -- !! For we join PITB with the jam clearly already in progress, an unknown and unknowable portion simply skipped. Out, out, damn spot! For the boys are in fine fettle, and late '72 PITBs are a force unto themselves. We join amid some percussion work, and hear a scant three minutes before Jerry reintroduces the PITB riff that might be expected to end the jam. Fortunately, the rest are having none of that, but it does give us some idea how much is missing. The mood is murky but moving, soul food for the subconscious, reminding me of the post-Truckin jam on E72 [from 5/26/72] before turning an angry corner into Stompville. Little pieces from everyone add up to the greater whole -- nobody really leads -- but the river is flowing pretty fast. Seven minutes, and Jerry seems to be succeeding with the return phrases. This time the band acquiesces, slowly. like a jet coming in for a velvet landing. 55 seconds later, and a triumphant PITB reprise is heartily hailed by the audience. Thus ends the biggest jam of the show.

The audience takes a break here, but we don't -- the disc flip was five songs back, so we immediately launch into 'Truckin'. The band is spirited and ready, and the audience claps in time with the groove. Bobby almost remembers all the words.The beginning of the jam finds Jerry stepping out with a bright sound & determined attittude; hmmm what? A bit bluesier, more soulful than usual, maybe? A few power stabs, try taking it down. Hmmm yes. Bobby nicely accents with some echo phrasing, then counter-phrasing, then anti-phrasing -- well, you know, it's BOBBY. Phil & Bill seem content to chug along & listen, though Phil could never lay back for long before stoking the fire a bit. Bobby pulls a switch by playing some actual rhythm, which Jerry rides upon for a phrase or two, but Keith is still pointing to something mellower. Well, says Jerry, then let it be blues. And it was blues. And it was good. :-) Like 5/26/72, it goes for long stretches without seeming either to change or be the same, and at 13:45 we seem to have arrived at .... well, I'll be; it's 'Truckin' again! And it's better than ever. Two more minutes of fine choogling before it ends; a fine though not momentous performance.

A little noodling, and 'Ramble On' takes the stage. Rather insistently too, both guitars playing the riff in unison at first. Jerry sings strongly. The solo veers only slightly from the usual, but Jerry plays this almost fiercely throughout. Nice piano trill from Keith in the last chorus, and again the vocals don't suggest a need for overdubs.

More tuning. Deadbase puts 'Promised Land' next, and sure enough, here it comes. I guess this is really what the audience in Detroit wanted that night, for they respond with delight, and Bobby sings this with great gusto.

Next up: 'Tomorrow is Forever'. OK, by now I'm getting restless; we ended set one with such deep, provocative jamming, and began set two with a nice dip into somewhat shallower water. Then it's 'back to the bleachers', really, for the rest of the show. Maybe I'm showing some prejudice here, but isn't this first-set material?

OK, maybe it is, but it sure is well-played, and ... what? 'Tomorrow' fades out just before it should reasonably end, and we fade back in amid a scorching 'Around'. ?? To make matters worse, after fading in, the levels drop about 25% at the 26 to 30 second mark -- during Garcia's solo! Yikes! Then levels rise again at 1:28. Ham-handed conversion? To steal from Spicoli in 'Fast Times at Ridgmont High': People who do Quaaludes should NOT convert tapes to digital.

Back to the band: some hesitation as to where to go next. I have to wonder if we might have missed something, but the band settles on 'Candyman' -- an unusual choice in any slot and a real bet-buster here. Jerry's solo garners some appreciative applause. It's nice, but doesn't carry that 'second-set' intensity -- in fact, the band seems to forget the ending of the song, and Jerry is forced to power through some reminder strums.

I hate to say it, but i'm not 'getting' this show; it sounds to me like they've lost momentum and they're just filling up time now. Maybe we're supposed to be feeling that 'comfy living room' mood by now? The audience is much quieter than they were in the first set.

Into dead silence, Phil starts up the throb that propels 'Greatest Story', and the band immediately builds back that momentum. Perhaps this is where set two should have begun -- confident presentation, strong vocals. Jerry seems a little uninspired but perks up for the 'Stephen' jam. Ah, here they are! Here's the Grateful Dead we know & love from 1972!

In the tuning that follows, people are *still* calling for 'St Stephen'. Ah well; points for persistence, I guess. Jerry hints at 'He's Gone', but instead starts 'Mississippi Half-Step'. By now, we accept that this set is not going to be an all-timer -- or even solid, -- and hope for a decent memory or two in what's left. We find some of it in the piano / guitar interplay in Half Step's first solo. We don't find it in the awful 'Rio Grande-o' harmonies. We almost find it in the ending solos. But by now, i'm thinking 'Just let it end'.

'Sugar Mags'. Could this save the show? All signs are good through the lyrics, and they embark on the jam with confidence ... nothing new, but it's definitely good. As if to save us from too much of this good thing, an invisible hand drops the volume levels around the 6:30 mark; evidently the energy was getting into the red. :-( Too bad -- Jerry was trickling silver while Phil was mining gold, and Bobby / Donna howled to raise the, um, dead. Keith & Bill pounded like it was the last song they'd ever play. Short at seven & a half minutes, but a goody.

Jerry doesn't let this good crop go to waste -- he rides the outro right into 'Going Down the Road', a wise & effective move -- then muffed by an inability to remember the lyrics. He fills in the melody on guitar, and tries again. Nope, another choke. More time goes by; we're waiting. By now, I'm squirming in agony. He finally does remember, having lost almost all the momentum he had so fortuitously grabbed only minutes before. Amazingly, they do eventually get the energy back up again, though it's a long slow climb back up to Everest. Just as they get there, Jerry pulls the plug, calling up the 'Bid you Goodnight' transition, and segueing into NFA, to the audience's evident delight. Not so for us; in the first minute we experience both a tape flip and a switch to dirty tape heads that make the rest really a chore to listen to. Go ahead, if you want to -- there's even some speed alteration if you make it to the grand finale four minutes later.

Oh, there's a clap-along UJB encore. 'Better take my advice' -- give disc three to someone who needs a coaster. Meanwhile, discs 1 & 2 have some nice playing and fun audience noises. Have a good time, and drive safely :-)

Add-on thoughts:

I want to wonder if this 10-30-72 is a genuinely intact show -- after all, it largely looks like two first sets with a second-set finale tacked on -- but the sound is consistent in a way that would be difficult to fake from two separate dates.

Amazing as it seems, even in the midst of one of their hottest tours, evidently they could simply fail to get the connection going. Since we naturally seek out the best shows, it's easy for us to forget that they aren't ALWAYS so 'on', so 'together', so friggin' AWESOME. Fortunately, the tour wasn't over -- and I doubt anyone would question November 1972 as a peak tour in their career :-)
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 10/30/72, at the Ford, Auditorium in Detroit, MI  
Grateful Dead reviews of 10/30/72 - Ford Auditorium