Wednesday, July 26, 1972
Paramount Theater, Portland, OR
There is a lot to love in this show. It’s enormous, and catches the Dead firmly at a peak of power. Beyond great music, there is a over abundance of chatter from the band, talking to each other and to the crowd directly – not at all the norm for the Dead at this time. It adds that little something extra to enjoy on top of an already wonderful show.
What brings me back to this date is the Dark Star. It always sticks in my mind as unforgettable. The rest of the show is icing on the cake, and you never want to miss out on the icing! That there are fabulous renditions of so many other songs, makes this a show that you can comfortably take in completely. For review purposes, I will focus on the Dark Star. But, know that there is a lot to enjoy, not the least of which is the blistering Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away toward the end. It’s worth sticking around for this entire tape.
This Dark Star leads off by gently pulling back a curtain to reveal a landscape of slow cartwheeling suns; each extending sky-sized tendrils of thick, ever-changing watercolors. Where they touch, new stars are born in the distance, slowly growing as they emerge from within the giant stars already before you. The music-scape instantly induces a distorted visual field, whisking away the more formalized components of your physical surroundings. Now, there is an ancient incantation calling to your core. The lazy lope of Dark Star awakens your connection to more than simply music. Herein, that sense of attending a church service pervades the experience.
Softly, slowly, Garcia plays his morning bird call lines that would become more and more familiar in the following year. He is charged with an emotion that is hard to name, joyful and lamenting at the same time. His lines rise and fall like an eagle greeting the morning sun for the first time amidst morning mist and dew. The entire band spends long luxurious minutes filling the theater with this haunting aura. All Dark Stars do this to a degree. This version, tucked - almost hidden - in the second set of this show, seems to gain more power from the unexpected placement. You don’t see it coming, and with that there is more power.
Eventually the first verse appears just before the ten minute mark, and on its heels, the music loses its skeleton and simply melts onto the floor. A whisper quiet Space begins to take form, but soon it also evaporates away. Billy quickly shifts direction and begins to play as if he’s the drummer in a piano jazz trio. Phil, who had been playing low notes as large and long as a mountain range, picks up his part in the trio, and Keith joins soon thereafter. The three of them move headlong into a jam that is absolutely locked into the pocket. It calls your spirit to dance. Your heart catches fire just as Phil turns the corner out of the jazz-based playing and back into 1972 Dead proper.
Fully aflame now, the rest of the band steps into the pocket and what follows is nothing short of breathtaking. Chills roll up the spine. The band has now reached its intended destination. Dark Star was simply the road on the map they followed to their treasure. This jam is highly energized, sunshine sparkled funk, and you can sense that the Dead have reached a goal or fulfilled a calling. It’s highly personal, like the band is not even aware of the audience at all. This evening they have unlocked the door, once again, to their room of riches, and we are blissfully allowed to be there with them. Jerry is dropping runs where his notes ride the crest of the musical wave. They bounce and ricochet off the very top of the music, finding touch points in the syncopated crevices between the rest of the band’s tightly driven interplay. He is soaring, lifting the music higher and higher. It’s a dance of joy.
Whether it was twenty seconds or twenty minutes long, you’d call it fleeting when it passed. It leads into a cripplingly twisted Space, infused with skin melting feedback fire and shredding Tiger Jam spirals pouring out of Jerry’s guitar. What’s wonderful about this Space is how it constantly changes direction on you. New vistas are constantly appearing and receding, like the star suns at the beginning of the song, only now they are being tormented by wind from every direction. Visions are swept away to reveal deeper secrets. Colors morph into crushing boulders. Heaving waters burn into crystal. Then, out of the turmoil, Dark Star appears again.
It roars with the intensity of the Space behind it, then cools back to its original state. We reach the second verse of the song, which is an utter rarity by this stage of the game. By 1972 Dark Star had almost exclusively contained the first sung verse only. Somehow nearly thirty minutes have passed, and then the song outdoes itself by dropping into Comes A Time.
Clearly a winning combination in 1972, with this colossal Dark Star heading into Comes A Time, we are held in the delicate touch of the band’s heart. Jerry sings sweetly, and the music flows beneath him much like slowly cascading grass or wheat tickled by the fingers of a soft wind. There is a safety here. We need not worry for anything at all. We are nestled once again in the warm arms of the Grateful Dead.
07/26/72 SBD etree source info
07/26/72 SBD Stream