Jerry Garcia Week 2012 Day 2: Something Like A Bird…

When Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia wrote the lilting tune BIRD SONG, it was a heartfelt ode to Janis Joplin. It grew into one of the most beloved and experimental of all Grateful Dead songs and it remained in their repertoire until the end.

Now, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir’s extraordinary band, Furthur, plays the tune, but with a twist: after the extended jam, Phil changes the words from “All I know is something like a bird within her sang” to “All I know is something like a bird within HIM sang. All I know HE sang a little while and then flew on.” Garcia’s ode to another has become Phil’s ode to Jerry. Yes, Phil’s deep voice doesn’t capture the delicate qualities of Garcia’s, but there’s still purpose behind the song and it still takes us on quite a journey, albeit a rather different one than Garcia and the Grateful Dead took us on.

And just to compare, here’s a BIRD SONG from the Grateful Dead in Veneta, Oregon, 1972 (widely considered one of the best BIRD SONGs ever played), and another by Furthur at the (rainy) Wanee Festival in Live Oak, Florida earlier this year (plus a couple extra tunes just in case you wanna stay in the groove!).


Jerry Garcia Week 2012 Day 2: Something Like A Bird…

You Win Again: Copenhagen, Denmark April 14, 1972

The fourth show on the Grateful Dead’s first-ever tour of Europe landed them in a hall that was tailer-made for music. Located in the center of the Tivoli Gardens amusement park, the 1,700 seat Tivoli Concert Hall had been designed for classical music performances, though the Dead were not the first rock band to play there. Needless to say, it was a far cry from the dark and acoustically-challenged venues of the tour’s first three gigs.

Enjoying playing not only to an audience of Danish-speakers (though the Danes are well-versed in English, as I can assure you from having lived in Scandinavia for a time in my youth), the band was also performing for a culture of European hippies, the likes of which would not be seen again till the band hit Amsterdam. In the north part of Copenhagen is a small “town” called Christiania (or Freetown Christiania) which is an autonomous “commune” that exists outside of the drug laws that are somewhat enforced throughout the rest of Denmark. As a result, this Danish audience was more than a little equipped for this particular band’s visit to their humble city.

The results were, to say the least, perfectly in sync.

The sound on this recording is exceptional. You can “feel” the space itself and the energy of this more-than-ready-to-have-their-minds-blown crowd. From the first notes of BERTHA, this show soars. The tour’s first YOU WIN AGAIN makes a welcome appearance early on. WIN’s a song I’ve always loved and one the Dead sadly didn’t keep in their repertoire for very long. I always thought Jerry did justice to the heartfelt Hank Williams tune. Another short but highly experimental PLAYING IN THE BAND helps keep the first set loose and wiggly while Pig’s rendition of BIG BOSS MAN makes sure the dancing and swaying never loses momentum.

Set two gives us another steamrollin’ TRUCKIN’ (this was definitely the tour for that song!) and another heartfelt IT HURTS ME TOO, which I will never get enough of. The BROWN-EYED WOMEN is energetic and a perfect reminder of the Dead’s various roots and inspirations; there is no better reflection of American music than the Grateful Dead songbook. This is followed by the last LOOKS LIKE RAIN of the tour and the last time Jerry would play pedal steel with the Grateful Dead until 1987 (!) when they backed Bob Dylan.

Like all versions of DARK STAR on this tour, April 14, 1972’s is one of the best ever. Deep and spacey, while not quite as luxurious as the Wembley DARK STAR, it certainly takes us on a long, strange trip (though the second verse is left out in the nether-sphere for another night). Pig’s GOOD LOVIN’ may be one of the best examples of the man’s vast talent for rapping as he weaves in and out of GOOD LOVIN’, WHO DO YOU LOVE, CAUTION (DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS) and back into GOOD LOVIN’. It’s a wondrous thing to behold.

Well, the boys could have ended the show then and there and one wouldn’t have heard nary a peep of complaint from anyone in attendance. But they chose to add another five songs onto the evening including a rousing NOT FADE AWAY-> GOING DOWN THE ROAD FEELING BAD-> NOT FADE AWAY. And by the time the band completed their frenzied and energetic version of ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT, the audience, and this listener, was more than a little satiated. Oh, to have been one of those 1,700…

Thankfully, this would not be the Dead’s last stop at the Tivoli Concert Hall this tour. They departed briefly to do another show at Aarhus University in Denmark before returning to the amusement park and hashish aromas of the fabulous Tivoli Gardens.

You Win Again: Copenhagen, Denmark April 14, 1972

Comes A Time: Newcastle, England April 11th, 1972

A Tuesday night at Newcastle City Hall in Newcastle, England. Third show of the tour before taking the ferry across to Denmark and the mysterious continent beyond.

Many a band had played the industrial town of Newcastle, England before the Dead. In fact, Eric Burdon and The Animals derived from Newcastle so the locals already had their own rock and roll celebrities. But the City Hall had never been a favorite place on any band’s list of venues to play. It was not the warmest of settings, with a tiny stage and concrete pillars spaced evenly throughout, blocking sight lines and making the acoustics a bit wonky. Even the crowd seemed a tad suspect as the gig began, but soon enough, the Dead had proven their worth and those cold concrete pillars and walls started reflecting the heat that was coming off the stage.

The first set was a whopping 18-song affair. Not as tight or energetic as the 2 previous Wembley shows, but no slouch either. The Newcastle crowd was privileged to get one of the tour’s three Jerry-on-pedal-steel LOOKS LIKE RAINs as well as a scorching BIG RAILROAD BLUES. The BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE offered the first false-start of the tour, but once the song got up and running (how many beats was that again?) all was as it should be in Grateful Dead land.

Pig led off the second set with another GOOD LOVIN’. It’s great to hear Pig belting out each and every song with so much energy and emotion as this would turn out to be, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, his last tour. Pigpen was already sick by this stage and looking mighty frail, but you’d never know it by the recording.

The highlight of the second set is the epic 20-minute TRUCKIN’ that devolves into some deep psychedelic spaces before spinning its way into DRUMS and then into a 25-minute OTHER ONE that leaves one breathless as it winds down into the first of the tour’s four renditions of Garcia’s beauteous COMES A TIME. The set closes out with one of only two versions of BROKEDOWN PALACE offered on the tour. It is as stirring an interpretation as I’ve ever heard.

Even Eric Burdon’s Mum was overheard to declare about the Grateful Dead (somewhere during the show’s over 4-hour running time), “They’re very good, you know.”

High praise, indeed.

A few days off to re-energize and the band will soon be taking the stage at the famous Tivoli Gardens Concert Hall. A far cry from the grey of Newcastle and the band’s first show in front of a foreign-speaking audience (though one could argue that Newcastle’s northern dialect might seem rather foreign to some). But music is, after all, a universal language. And so it would be in the land of the Danes. And beyond…

Comes A Time: Newcastle, England April 11th, 1972