Just looking at the setlist to this one, you might be a little dismayed with no monster jam in the second set. But rest assured, the Dead made up for that and more with intense, rocking playing with more than a few quick jammy runs that are just incredible. From top to bottom, every song is played with such energy and power, but all still have a depth and character that is just sublime. Things start off with a stupendous Cold Rain And Snow, then, a song later on Mister Charlie, they split things open. Pig sings like the bad ass front man he is, Jerry tears up the place, Phil lays in some earth-shattering bass, and Keith offers up thrilling fills. Then, it is right into a hopped up Sugaree; if you have not already by this point, be sure to turn up the volume here and just groove to Jerry’s luminescent guitar licks and soulful vocals. The Jack Straw that comes out next is just as divine with more juicy Jerry guitar, aided by Bobby’s own ridiculous guitar work, rolling and roiling and then getting placid and quiet in the calmer interludes. After that, Pig comes back for another solid turn on Next Time You See Me with more fabulous playing and an awesome intro by Phil. And, the rest of the set - and the show, for that matter - is more of the same. Each and every tune is special, like the Brokedown Palace a little later in the set with the rapturous playing of, especially, Billy and Jerry and the heartfelt and moving vocals and harmonies. It is just intoxicating. In the second set, we get the longest song of the night - though still no flat-out jam - in Smokestack Lightning. Pig’s vocals are deep and bluesy, and Jerry’s guitar is just sick, especially during a scorching, extended run in the middle of the song. As you would expect, the Deal that arrives next is scintillating. And, then, the boys blast through Truckin’, leaving smoldering tracks in their wake. Following that, Billy drives the band through a brilliant NFA> GDTRFB> NFA, and then a fast and furious One More Saturday Night caps the evening.
Obviously, at this point in ’71, Pigpen had rejoined the band after Keith had taken his spot when he was in the hospital. With both Keith and Pig, especially here where Pig is totally involved, the Dead were an unstoppable force with so many weapons and such a diverse range. They display nearly all of it on this evening except the deep jamming exploration they were capable of. This is a special night with the boys, as was most of December ’71.