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Dead of the Day: May 11, 1972

Rotterdam Civic Hall
Rotterdam, Netherlands
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While there are quite a few other shows from May 11th, we are heading off to Rotterdam, 1972. The boys start it off right with a stellar Playin’, though the board is off for the first minute or so. Fortunately, things get straightened out promptly enough to really allow us to enjoy the bright, up-tempo jams. The China> Rider pops up as a gem in the middle of an already sparkling first set. China Cat is moody but upbeat as the band completely comes together on it and then takes it smoothly through the transition into Rider. The magic continues in the Rider with Jerry scorching off at every available opportunity, coming right back down again to create space for the lovely vocals. The Good Lovin’ is also something to behold; more reserved musically, it sets up a more serious canvas on which Pigpen can rap and carry on. The second set opens with an incredible Morning Dew. It is the first of the year and a total gas. Jerry’s vocals are spot on and pregnant, Phil is bombing away, and they just keep arcing further and further during the jam. Pig and the band then nail the deeply heartbreaking Two Souls in Communion, with short but deep jams and melancholy Pig vocals to match. Despite all the great stuff during the rest of the night, though, the Dead enter into another realm altogether with the first notes of Dark Star. Early on, Jerry laces into a melodic little riff that he continues to play around with throughout the next while, with Keith sort of echoing and teasing him with a variation on the same theme. Everyone ends up taking a leading role at one point or another through this epic tour de force. And, towards the end of all the jamming, it almost seems like the boys are not going to come together on any single tune, as each of them introduces something and heads off down one path, only to look back and see the others are not following. But, finally, during a particularly settled portion, Bobby takes the reins and leads them into Sugar Mags with Jerry and the rest of the band quickly climbing on board. Afterwards, they roll into Caution, the last complete version of tune they would ever play. The playing is feisty and fiery, and Pig slaps out the lyrics and then just wails away, leading into a cover version of Who Do You Love that only the Dead could muster: bluesy, slightly psychedelic, and totally rocking. A Truckin’ and Uncle John’s, both excellent in their own right, put to bed what is arguably the most adventurous and best night of the European tour.

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