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Dead of the Day: December 15, 1971

Hill Auditorium
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Bertha opens the show, and the entire band shines on it with Jerry and Keith leading the jams and Billy putting in some excellent drum work. On the next song, Bobby’s vocals combine with exceptionally resonant guitar by him and Jerry to deliver a sweet Me And Bobby McGee. Following that comes Mr. Charlie, which, though it was a staple during the month, always has Pig and the rest of the band performing at a high, heady level. An out of this world China Cat comes out next with Bobby, Jerry, and Keith putting together an amazing, layered jam that is so scrumptious. And there is nothing wrong at all with the I Know You Rider that comes on China Cat’s heels. And the same could be said of the remainder of the first set; it is all so satisfying. But, as with many of the other December ’71 shows, the Jack Straw, Run Rudolph Run, Playin’, and Brokedown all stand just a little bit above the rest of the first half tunes. 

The boys come right out of the break with a brilliant Dark Star, which heads into a mellow, yet searingly groovy Deal. From there, the band does not let up, and Pig is at the center of much of it, as are Keith’s keys and, as you would expect, Jerry’s luscious licks. Most of the remainder is built around a meaty Lovelight sandwich. All told, the Lovelight is the equal of any of the monstrous, down and dirty ones from the previous year as Pig sings, raps, and downright bawls while the band goes off. And, listening in retrospect, this rendition conjures more than a bit of melancholy, being the fifth to last Lovelight that Pig would front, and really the last truly exceptional one of those.

Opened in 1913, Hill Auditorium is a gem of a performance hall at the heart of Michigan’s campus. Built with a 200,000 dollar bequest from a former university regent, Arthur Hill, the hall originally - up until a 2004 renovation - sat 4100 in a sumptuous atmosphere. It’s acoustics have always been hailed; even when Hill first opened, it was lauded as a “monument to perfect acoustics.” And the outrageously crisp and spacious sound that we have on this soundboard recording must owe at least something to those wonderful acoustics. But the tape here is also a testament to the original recording and Charlie Miller’s excellent transfer.

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