I encourage all of you who bash Bob Weir to listen to this show immediately. Unfortunately, Bob’s guitar is almost completely absent from this recording, which makes the rest of the Dead sound like a very hollow version of the Jerry Garcia Band with a better bass player. If, after listening to this show, you don’t immediately come to appreciate the absolutely crucial role that Bob’s guitar played in the Grateful Dead (and believe me, when I first started out, I made this same mistake), then there is no hope for you.
Other than the missing Bob Weir, this show, musically, is not nearly as bad as some would lead you to believe. Yes, the Dead were burning out on this European tour, but it’s still 1974 and there isn’t a lot of bad music being made during that year. The first set, in particular, cooks in that “only in 1974” way. In addition, Keith and Phil are turned way up and Phil is on fire throughout. Keith’s playing is also a lesson in that special something that he brought to the band, although in this case, he may be a little too high in the mix.
There aren’t a ton of highlights today – Eyes of the World is good, but the Playin’ in the Band that anchors Set II is mediocre for 1974. Don’t get excited for the 17 minute Morning Dew, either. It’s as if the band runs out of steam but has too much momentum to not keep plowing through the tune well after they should have ended it. Again, many of these problems can be traced to the lack of Bob’s guitar, but on the whole, the Dead aren’t giving us their best effort tonight. Stick with Set I and you’ll be a happy, but Bob-less, camper.