May 10 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

In April 1972, the Grateful Dead embarked on their now-legendary Europe ’72 Tour. The band performed 22 times between April 7 and May 26, resulting in the landmark triple live LP, Europe ’72 that was released in October of that year. To celebrate the legacy of the band’s historic tour abroad, JamBase presents a retrospective look back at each of the Europe 1972 Grateful Dead performances.


The Grateful Dead’s Europe ‘72 Tour saw the band and their 50-odd person entourage of crew, family and friends get two days off to wash the mud off from the soggy Bickershaw Festival in northern England and make the 688-kilometer trek back across the English Channel to enter the fifth country the band played overseas, landing in The Netherlands for two shows. First up for guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, keyboardists Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Keith Godchaux, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux was a concert at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on Wednesday, May 10.

Considered among the worlds most acoustically pristine concert venues, Concertgebouw continues to host performances and serves as the home of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The Concertgebouw website explains its history, stating (translated from Dutch):

It is September 15, 1881. Six illustrious citizens gather in Amsterdam to set up a ‘Provisional Commission for the Building of a Concert Hall.’ The Parkzaal in the Plantage is about to be demolished, Felix Meritis is too small, the Paleis voor Volksvlijt is uncomfortable and notorious for its poor acoustics. A few months earlier, the weekly magazine De Amsterdammer had denounced the shameful state of musical life in the capital. “While the administrators of all self-respecting cities abroad provide good concert halls, our government is using the fateful word art is not a government matter,” the weekly reported …


The Concertgebouw was completed at the end of 1886. However, due to a lack of confidence from the money lenders and the necessary struggles with the municipality of Nieuwer-Amstel, including about filling in a ditch, the paving of the access roads and the supply of street lighting, the long-awaited building can only be festively opened on Wednesday 11 April 1888 …


The Concertgebouw has two famous concert halls, namely the Grote Zaal (1974 seats) and the Kleine Zaal (437 seats), and the more recently opened Koorzaal (150 seats). The combination of the two world-class halls (Great and Small Hall) makes The Concertgebouw perhaps the most beautiful concert hall in the world …


The Concertgebouw has a great tradition of legendary concerts by greats such as Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Bernard Haitink, Yehudi Menuhin, Jessye Norman, Vladimir Horowitz, Cecilia Bartoli, Louis Armstrong, Sting and others.

Paul McCartney & Wings namechecked Concertgebouw on their song “Rock Show” from the 1975 album, Venus & Mars. The song’s refrain also mentions Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl.

The first set opened with “Bertha” and closed with “Casey Jones,” while the second opened with “Truckin’” and closed with “Not Fade Away.” This was the second time those four songs filled those same slots on the tour, and it would be repeated once more before the tour’s end.

After “Bertha,” Weir welcomed the audience to the concert with a “Howdy!”

“As the sun sinks slowly in the west,” Weir continued, “we’re gonna sing a song about the American West – and it goes like this,” before launching into “Me And My Uncle.”

At the song’s conclusion, an unidentified Dutch-speaking man instructed the audience to refrain from using flash photography. Pigpen’s “Mr. Charlie” then got its 14th performance of the tour, which was one of four songs he would sing lead on in the first set while fronting one more in the second set.

Following the Pigpen-led “Next Time You See Me” someone in the audience shouted out a request for “El Paso,” leading Weir to explain that the band might get around to it, might get around to other requests and might not get to others that they had forgotten how to play.

Weir then said, “This next song is dedicated to the great state of Texas” before leading the band through the request-fulfilling cover of “El Paso.” Later in the opening set, Garcia introduced “Tennessee Jed” with more U.S. geography-based banter, saying the song is “about a place that’s famous for its whiskey.”

Bobby altered his usual welcoming of Donna to the stage ahead of “Playing In The Band,” telling the audience that she, “Sings like the bells of hell, and I’m sure you’ll agree,” before adding “we’re going to go ahead and get weird.” The ensuing “Playing In The Band” was among the lengthiest of the 22 performed on the Europe ‘72 Tour, supplying inspired improvisation and dazzling interplay between the musicians on stage.

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The first set included the version of “He’s Gone” that was selected for the original Europe ‘72 live album. It was only the eighth time the band had played the song that had made its debut earlier on the tour, on April 17 in Denmark. Grateful Dead author/biographer Blair Jackson wrote the liner notes for the May 10 show that was part of the Europe ‘72: The Complete Recordings box set, and offered this information regarding this performance and subsequent release of this version of “He’s Gone”:


Finally, I’ve got to get something off my chest. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I interviewed Bob Matthews – sound chief for the Europe tour – for a book I was writing called Grateful Dead Gear that I learned how extensively the Dead had overdubbed vocals for the Europe ’72 album I loved so much back in the day. That’s OK. I have no philosophical problem with that. But it was just recently, after seriously studying the whole Europe ’72 Tour in detail, that I realized that the vocal coda on “He’s Gone”–”Oo-oo-oo, nothin’s gonna bring him back”– was not from the 5/10/72 Amsterdam show that the album version was purportedly drawn from; indeed, the coda did not appear on any of the six versions of th song played in Europe. Rather, it was introduced July 16, 1972, at Dillon Stadium in Hartford, Connecticut, a concert I actually attended, as fate would have it. But the vocals on the “live” album were added in the studio when Matthews mixed the tapes, long after the Europe tour. I’m not complaining, mind you – the coda improved the song, but it was kind of a shock to recall that in the first versions it wasn’t there.

The box set version of “He’s Gone” retained the overdubbed vocals, complete with the coda Jackson referenced above. According to Steven Seachrist’s Grateful Dead Guide guest essay detailing the overdubbing on Europe ‘72, and confirmed/speculated on elsewhere, “the original album version was sped-up and thus pitched about a half-step sharp,” while the box set “mix rectifies this.”

Seachrist also noted, “Keith’s piano in this song is entirely overdubbed on the album, adding a lot of embellishments.” The unedited performance of “He’s Gone” can be heard on other recordings of the May 10 show that circulate (see Archive.org).

The first set “Jack Straw” was the Dead’s first true performance of the song to feature Garcia singing half of the lyrics. Prior renditions had been sung entirely by Weir. The new arrangement with Jerry and Bob volleying verses was overdubbed and added to the Europe ‘72 version that came from the show on May 3.

A fiery and concise “Truckin’” ignited the second set, bleeding into an exuberant Kreutzmann drum solo. Billy’s beats teed up the rumbling intro to “The Other One.” As was often the case on this tour, “The Other One” at Concertgebouw was a gateway to excentric improvisation. Spanning 34-minutes (one of the longest excursions of the tour) “The Other One” assured the Dutch audience that the Dead’s psychedelic chops were still plenty sharp and improving with the addition of Keith Godchaux. Both chaotic and melodic, the richly thematic “The Other One” would twist its way into a cleansing “Me And Bobby McGee” ahead of a brief detour back into the second verse of “The Other One.”

The fourth “Wharf Rat” of the five played in Europe came next. Kreutzmann then pounded out a 35-beat count-off to lead into “Beat It On Down The Line.” Pigpen’s final take singing lead came via his heartfelt “The Stanger (Two Souls In Communion),” which was followed by Garcia getting back to back calls “Ramble On Rose” and Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home.”

Without an encore, the second set and show came to a roaring conclusion with a rowdy sequence stringing together “Sugar Magnolia” into “Not Fade Away” in “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” back into “NFA.”

In a rather unflattering review of the Amsterdam show for the local newspaper NRC, reporter Peter de Vries described the scene at Concertgebouw:

A sound system stacked towering high and wall wide turned out to be excellently tuned to the hall. With flawlessly functioning lighting equipment, even king-sized, the group was sprayed with refinement with bright hues and twilight mists. A multitude of vapors and smells emanating from a massive smoking crowd seemed entirely in style with the colorful spectacle.

The reviewer may have been impressed with the presentation, but as for the music, de Vries wrote, “Despite the more than four hours (!) that were allotted for the concert, the Grateful Dead remained musically below expectations … The group was definitely stronger vocally than instrumentally, there were really no spectacular moments, no heartwarming, decisive actions. The sparsely interesting sounds were most evident in organist Ron McKernan’s harmonica playing and Keith Godchaud’s [sic] honky-tonk strikes on piano.”

Here are additional statistics and information regarding the 14th performance of the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 tour:

At-a-Glance

The Show

May 10, 1972

1,974

429 miles

The Music

18 songs / 73 minutes

11 songs / 114 minutes

29 Songs / 187 minutes
18 originals / 11 covers

The Other One 34:21

Chinatown Shuffle 2:52

13:50

12 Jerry / 12 Bobby / 5 Pigpen

35

49


Set One: Bertha, Me And My Uncle, Mr. Charlie, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Black Throated Wind, Loser, Next Time You See Me, El Paso, He’s Gone [1][2], Chinatown Shuffle, Playing In The Band, Big Railroad Blues, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Big Boss Man, Greatest Story Ever Told, Casey Jones

Set Two: Truckin’ > Drums > The Other One > Me And Bobby McGee > The Other One > Wharf Rat, Beat It On Down The Line, Two Souls In Communion, Ramble On Rose, Sing Me Back Home, Sugar Magnolia > Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away

Notes:

  • [1] released on Europe ’72
  • [2] released on The Golden Road (1965 – 1973)

Below, stream the official recording of the Grateful Dead’s May 10, 1972 concert at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands or check out other recordings via Archive.org: