Pulled out the box of flashcards (now dubbed Box of Rain) this week is Europe ’72 Vol 18: 5/18/72. This selection from the Europe ’72: Complete Recordings Box Set is from a show in Munich, West Germany only five days after the Lille Fairgrounds show we looked at last time. The Grateful Dead lineup remains the same as our previous entry and the majority of the setlist is similar to the Lille Fairground show. An interesting note on this set is that throughout the show the band comments on the numerous technical difficulties that occur, however listening back now there sound like there are none to be found.
The first set is a nice long collection of the Dead in the zone. The “Truckin’” that starts her off is fantastic. They get right into the energetic song as if they had already been playing for a half hour before. Quickly running through the first few songs, “Sugaree” through “Black Throated Wind” is tight. Nobody misses a single beat throughout. The standout moments are definitely in the harmonies and getting to hear bassist Phil Lesh clear in the high parts. Also the similar guitar licks of “Tennessee Jed” and “Chinatown Shuffle” work perfectly back to back.
Following is a rendition of “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider” that is textbook. Phil lays down phenomenal bass lines throughout and Garcia is in peak form. When they get to the vocals of “I Know You Rider,” the harmonies are much more in line than the show five days prior. Though this version didn’t make the final cut for the original Europe ‘72 album, it definitely should’ve been a contender. The only knock against it is the final harmonies on the outro aren’t at one hundred percent.
After the cool down of country tunes “El Paso,” “Hurts Me Too,” and “You Win Again,” the band kick things up a notch to finish out the set. A raucous iteration of “Playin’ in the Band” begins the end of the first set. The real climax comes to light with “Good Lovin’,” a Young Rascals cover. We’ve only previously covered the version of “Good Lovin'” that appears on 1980’s Go To Heaven, with this earlier version featuring vast differences. Pigpen is on lead vocals with the rest of the group bringing loud backup vocals. Pigpen’s bluesy vocal freestyling brings so much life to the track. It’s also a much more energetic jam than what it became later in their career, thanks in part to Bill Kreutzmann’s aggressive drumming and Keith Godchaux’s jazzy piano drifting throughout the track. Keeping with tradition, the group end the first set on “Casey Jones.” The seven minute track is near perfect with a harmonious ending.
The Grateful Dead were Psychedelic Cowboys at this point, and set one definitely focused more on the Cowboy, with their second set moving more into the Psychedelic. They bring out the rarity, “Sitting On Top Of The World”, applying years of expertise to the track featured on their debut album. There’s a more distinctive country twang than on the album version, but it’s a welcomed sound that fits more in line with the band in this era. The Dead keep the Country going on “Me & My Uncle” and “Ramble on Rose”, before once again pulling off their debut album. The group has a little trouble breaking into “Beat It On Down The Line,” but once the first verse gets going they find the rhythm.
I’ve been eager to review our first “Dark Star” and today’s the day. As far as a first “Dark Star” for this column, this one is a goodie. The band absolutely demolishes a 28 minute rendition of this legendary jam, taking it to a dark and spacey place. The key to this “Dark Star” is the combination of Jerry Garcia, Phil, and Bob Weir. Jerry drives variations on the main theme of the track for a while and nine minutes in, the psychedelia breaks through. Jerry doesn’t come in for the first verse until 14 minutes in and what follows is another 12 minutes of devolution. The band plays with disharmony and Phil plays deeper and deeper bass notes. Garcia and Weir play a delicate back and forth stabbing higher and higher reverberated notes. The 12 minute coda couldn’t be more “out there,” pushing their sound into an organized chaos. When everything comes to, Jerry brings light out of the darkness.
Immediately out of “Dark Star,” the band moves into “Morning Dew.” The song whose lyrics describe a man coming out to view his world after a nuclear holocaust, works so perfectly coming out of the madness of the previous jam. After a brief “Drums,” the band rip into the assumed set ender, “Sugar Magnolia.” Instead of ending on the high energy, Jerry moves into the Merle Haggard tune, “Sing Me Back Home,” and the band follows suite. The 11 minute track is soft and reflective, with vibrant vocal harmonies. After the slow country number, the band encore to “One More Saturday Night.” It’s a short one, but the band puts their last bit of energy into the song and leave the stage electrified.
Much like the previous Europe ‘72 show we covered, this one is another fantastic representation of this era of the band. It’s got plenty of Cowboy tunes as expected, but the band reaches for more of their early roots. The standout tracks on this one are definitely “Good Lovin’,” “Dark Star,” “Morning Dew,” and “Sing Me Back Home”. This show is a perfect companion to the 5/13/72 Lille Fairground show, with both set lists showing off the band at their height in ‘72.