Dear Lord, September 1972 is just a beast of a month, isn’t it? This show probably isn’t in my top five shows from this month, and yet it’s still a monster from start to finish.
Let’s back up a moment. If you listened to yesterday’s show from Nassau Coliseum in 1973, you would have heard eleven of the same tunes that the Dead played tonight, but the difference in tone between 1972 and 1973 makes them sound like a totally different band. 1972 Dead, even as it enters this fall-winter period of transition, is a raw force of nature that has been honed to a point, capable of subtle changes of direction but, more often than not, astonishing runs of pure psychedelic power. 1973 Dead has spread out and softened, with the interplay getting deeper and the spaces between the instruments deepening. If you want the force of primal 1968-69 Dead coupled with the complexity of the 1974 shows, then 1972 is your year.
This explosive, borderline aggressive energy shows up all over tonight’s show, but Exhibit A is He’s Gone>Truckin’ in the second set. He’s Gone remains relatively mellow until the end, but Truckin’ progresses quickly from the initial verses into a very loud, chortling bomb of a jam that crawls forth across a five minute period in the middle of the song. From there, we’re knee-deep into a thirty-four minute version of The Other One, which is probably ten minutes too long, but the extra time is filled up with some passages that closely resemble Feedback or Space, losing their tether to the tune only to be brought back to earth time and time again.
Once The Other One ends the band calms things down with Stella Blue, but Jerry Garcia’s exit solo rears right back into the primordial energy that the band has been feasting on all night for a beautiful and unique moment of bliss. This is a special ending to Stella.
While this passage represents approximately an hour and ten minutes of music, it’s not even close to half of the show. Tonight we’re also treated to a substantial and imaginative Playin’ in the Band AND a nice Bird Song that doesn’t hold a candle to some of the more memorable 1972 Bird Songs but would be a top notch version in any other year.
To add to the fun, this Matrix recording (based off of a really nice, pure Audience recording by Bruce Harvie) really shows off Keith, Phil and Bob. Keith, more than any other member of the band at this time, tends to get buried in the mix, but tonight he’s clear throughout, especially on Friend of the Devil. Phil weaves in and out, but when he’s loud it’s a treat. There are even points where Bob Weir’s playing is highlighted, and his playing, in particular, is spectacular tonight. But you could say that about everyone here – the Grateful Dead are at the top of their game, and the best shows of September, 1972 are yet to come.
Listen to the Matrix here: https://archive.org/details/gd1972-09-09.mtx.seamons.bertrando.103311.flac16