After listening and getting in-depth with every Grateful Dead studio album, it’s finally time to listen to some live albums (picked randomly from a box of index cards). Kicking off the first live album on The Other Ones is the Europe ‘72 Vol 16: 5/13/72. This is one of the 22 shows from the legendary Europe ’72 tour that was released in a 2011 box set. Vol 16 is made up of the full set from the show at Lille Fairgrounds in Lille, France on May 13th, 1972. This particular show took place during the day and was free for the public, as the Dead had to make up for not having their equipment make it to the venue in time on the previously scheduled date. This time around, the band brought their A-game.
Lineup for the Lille Fairgrounds show is typical for this Europe ‘72 tour, but definitely an interesting one in the group’s history. Pigpen’s health was failing, so Keith Godchaux takes the piano, leaving Pigpen with energy for singing and playing harp and organ. Also, Donna pops in to sing backup on a few songs. Mickey Hart had left the band at this point as well, leaving drumming duties solely to Bill Kreutzmann.
The album gets started on the first set with “Tuning Rap,” not a song but just some stage banter. Eventually it turns into Phil and Bobby making fart noises over random instrument sound tests. It’s funny on the first go around but becomes a must skip upon a second listen. The rest of the first set consists of 15 songs that were fairly standard for that tour. Despite a couple of microphone feedback issues, the band comes in hot with a great rendition of “Bertha.” Keith brings the fire on the keys and Jerry delivers with a solid solo. Though never recorded on a studio album, “Bertha,” remains one of the great legendary Garcia-Hunter compositions. Later in the set, Pigpen comes in with decent vocal performance on “Chinatown Shuffle.”
The band doesn’t really get meshing until seven songs in, when they get to “China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider”. Though the vocal performance on “I Know You Rider” isn’t as in harmony as some of the other shows during that tour, they still bring the energy. The band keeps the pace up, rocking through “Me and My Uncle” and a few more songs. The final four songs before set break, really bring it though. Donna comes out for a rocking “Playing in the Band” that jams for 12 minutes. They get back to their Americana roots on an emotional “Sugaree” and Jerry plays fast and fun on a short “Mexicali Blues.” The group wraps up the first set on the always classic “Casey Jones.” Jerry’s voice seems to be a little tired and in need of rest, but the rest of the group keep the song alive with Bob’s backup vocals and Phil’s deep bass lines.
After a set break, the band come out full of energy on an 11 minute “Truckin’.” They bring raucous playing to the song, each member doing their best in the jam. The break also seemed to work for the vocal performances of Jerry, Bob, and Phil, as their voices meld into a powerful force. Transitioning out, Bill drum solos for a few minutes. Before the group kicks into “The Other One.” Coming in at nearly half an hour, this jam is the finest moment of the show. The first ten minutes are pure Jerry Garcia. He improvises and rips forward and backward in waves, with the rest of the group following suit. It begins to break down into a jazzier, free movement with Keith, Phil, and Bill all holding it down until Bob comes in with the song’s first verse. Once more, Keith’s addition to the group proves invaluable as he drives the melody. The jam ventures of into space, with Phil providing foreboding bass notes under Jerry’s manic runs. Eventually they return back to Earth on the melody of “The Other One” and Bob wraps up the song on the second verse.
After the ripping and roaring from the electricity of “The Other One,” the Dead slow things down a bit with “He’s Gone” and “Hurts Me Too.” They begin to wrap up the second set with a great “Sugar Magnolia.” This one lacks Donna, which leaves the vocal backup duties to Jerry and Phil. Finally the band get into a short “Not Fade Away” before “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”. This rendition of “GDTRFB” is a phenomenal eight minute rocker, bringing Donna back into the fold. In classic Dead fashion, they return to “Not Fade Away.” This “NFA>GDTRFB>NFA” is fantastic with Bob and Pigpen jabbing back and forth and bringing their remaining vocal power. The group comes back for an encore with “One More Saturday Night,” exiting Lille with a little Chuck Berry flair.
This 5/13/72 Lille Fairground show is a great example of the Grateful Dead in that era. It’s not too long at almost three hours and the band knows when to take the long jams and when to move the pace along quickly. This setlist ends up being a great crop of old and new. There is moments of psychedelia, blues, Americana, and jazz. It’s a great intersection of who the band was in the ‘60s, slamming into who they’ll become in the ‘70s. This record would make a fine introduction album for people who have never heard little or near nothing of the Grateful Dead’s live discography. What a great start to a new journey.