Palais Des Sports - Paris, France
Set 1: Cumberland Blues,
Jack Straw, It Must Have Been The Roses, Beat It On Down The Line,
Scarlet Begonias, Black Throated Wind, Friend Of The Devil, El Paso,
Row Jimmy, Weather Report Suite Prelude > Weather Report Suite
Part 1 > Let It Grow > Stella Blue, Around and Around
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower,
I Know You Rider, Big River, Brown Eyed Women, Greatest Story Ever
Told, Brokedown Palace, Truckin', Eyes Of The World, Not Fade Away,
Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad, One More Saturday Night, E: U.S.
Hold the Mustard:
There are definitely some
things to like about this show: the clear sound, the clean
separation, the band coasting to the end of a peak year. But
'coasting' isn't really the word we want to hear, is it? For the
most part, a decent show, without ever being outstanding, that could
have been more.
A few things to like: a
surprise opener in 'Cumberland' (is this the last Godchaux
version?), high piano mix (when Keith was still interested in
playing), and (of course) lots of Phil. FOTD, unconvincing in its
electric version of the acoustic recording, has finally found a
semi-funky arrangement better-suited for electric instruments. For
my money, this is one of the highlights of the set (the other being
the set-closing 'Around', despite a false start). WRS is also very
fine, benefiting from such strong piano presence.
After that, where does set
two go? China > Rider contains the expected (& enjoyable)
'Groovy' jam; 'Big River' is fine, if average; but the
merry-go-round seems to be breaking down. GSET contains several
miscues, somehow deserving Donna's wild wailing disaster. Jerry
seems to be reining things in with a tentative 'Brokedown Palace',
normally a welcome part of a set. The mood is restless; are we going
somewhere with this or not?
The answer comes in a
resounding 'Truckin'; all right then, let's go! Performance is solid
enough, and the band moves into confident gear for the outro,
building the chromatic triplets we've come to expect. Yes, yes!
Louder! More intense! Like a surfer on a gnarly pounder, Jerry
crests the froth; the wave arcs higher, like a waterfall in reverse,
bubbling upward with volcanic fury, straining to break, reaching,
reaching, curling, and then ...
You know the part where
they finally climax with a big bang, the whole band smashing the jam
into the next universe? That doesn't happen. From the sound of it,
it appears that Phil thought it was time to do it, but Jerry thought
they should go a little more. Anyway, the resulting uncertainty
caused EVERYONE to suddenly go cautious and just NOT PLAY ANYTHING,
for fear of making the wrong choice. That's right, the band that
thrives on astounding telepathy and creative surprise does a group
choke unparalleled in any other show I can think of.
They quickly recover,
diving immediately into a reasonably introspective jam as if it had
never happened, but you just can't erase a gaffe like that; the show
never really recovers. If you started listening right from that
moment on, you'd find it was not a bad set: a decent jam, a decent
'Eyes', a decent NFA & GDTRFB, all segued together. But the
overall impression is that maybe Scully's book was right about the
backstage problems; there is a sense of discontinuity that is not
helped by the almost-complete lack of audience sound. No wonder Ned
gave Dijon a miss, taking a miss himself instead (a Parisian one --
of legal age, one would hope).
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 9/20/74, at the Palais
Des Sports - Paris, France.