Shortlist: July 26, 1972 – Portland, OR

72-minute mp3 curation here

  • PA #1 (montage) (1:04)
  • Cold Rain and Snow (5:31)
  • PA #2 (montage) (0:50)
  • Sugaree (7:20)
  • Stella Blue (8:12)
  • PA #3 (0:18)
  • Playin’ Jam (9:20)
  • Dark Star > (12:17)
  • Jam > (7:39)
  • Space > (6:10)
  • Space Jam > Dark Star > (4:40)
  • Comes a Time (7:04)
  • PA #4 (1:24)

The “Dark Star”/improvisation sequence is the big deal here. 

The initial investigation of “Dark Star” is a fine one. It falls squarely into the center of the sleepy/aggressive spectrum, getting intense and wandering off course in nice ways. 

The portions I have titled “Jam” and “Space Jam > Dark Star” are amazing. It’s because I feel so strongly about them that I have separated them from the intervening “Space,” which just isn’t in the same category. (My track separations let you skip across “Space” without much of a disruption, if you want.)

“Jam” is not entirely unknown territory for late 1972: Some bass & drums, Keith entering on piano to organize things into a trio, then the guitarists joining to take it into a feisty jam that resembles “The Eleven.” I’d give this the nod over a similar passage from 8-21-72 BCT. 

However, the thing that the band suddenly, steadily builds out of unformed space, about six minutes after the jam described above, is a one-time-only event, as far as I know. It is as if The Iron Giant were reassembling himself, one disconnected gear and limb at a time, a chaotic rhythm of metallic interactions, steadily coordinating themselves, until, suddenly, the giant stands up and stretches, not as Superman but as the Dark Star Reprise. Amazing. Garcia isn’t ready to nail the second verse, but still.

30 years ago, I knew this show as half of a 90-minute cassette: “Dark Star” through “Comes a Time.” This year, I immersed myself in the whole show for the first time. As you can see, I ended up about where the judicious tape-traders put me 30 years ago. The show was plagued by technical and tuning delays, so the band talked and talked to a seemingly frustrated audience.  For these reasons or others, the performance is wobbly in a lot of places, and the mix is problematic on a lot of songs. Some of the SBD also suffers from distortion. 

So, here’s the great core of the show, plus some additional material to make a rather off-putting concert seem a bit more charming.

This is the sixth-ever performance of “Stella Blue” and the next-to-last performance of “Comes a Time” until 1976. “Cold Rain” was also just about to slide into rarity status, with only 10 more between this show and June 1976.

“PA #4” sounds weird because I vastly amplified off-mike band conversation to make it more audible.