Perhaps it’s because (sole) drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s kit is so prominent throughout the audio mix of Dave’s Picks Volume 24, spanning the stereo spectrum in Owsley Stanley’s recording from the Berkeley Community Theatre. Or maybe it’s the unusually taut, wiry nature of Jerry Garcia’s guitar work on “Cold Rain and Snow,” where he and Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Donna Godchaux all sing so lustily together. Or the ringing tones rising from Keith Godchaux’ piano on “Black-Throated Wind.”
Actually, it’s all those aspects of this 8/25/72 show, the final of four at the hometown venue. And that’s not to mention a setlist comprised of durable concert favorites, at a time in Grateful Dead history that this band arguably had its deepest store of excellent material, sequenced in an order that alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) reassures and surprises: hear some forty-four minutes of “Truckin’” into “The Other One” for example. Still, in all its jaunty glory (prior to a marked slowdown post-hiatus), “Friend of the Devil” makes a fine couplet with Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land,” demonstrating in no uncertain terms this band’s appreciation for a tale well told.
It has become a signature of this vault initiative that archivist David Lemieux writes liner notes only if the subject at hand is particularly distinguished and this final release of 2017 certainly deserves that description. Even the deliberate balladry of “Black Peter” has an unusual resonance and not just in the stirring tones of Lesh’s bass: Robert Hunter’s lyrics echo with profound truth: “See how everything lead up to this day…And it’s just like any other day that’s ever been.” In the homestretch just prior to the exultant likes of “One More Saturday Night” and a seemingly hurried (and truncated) “Sugar Magnolia,” “Stella Blue” is almost as heartrending.
The band deals cheerily with equipment snafus that occur during the course of this show and hearing their comments brings a smile similar to that which Dave Van Patten’s cover art elicits: in marked contrast to the murky stage photos in the booklet accompanying this three-CD set, the level of detail in his graphics accurately reflects that of the music his drawings enclose. As complete a package as any in the five-year history of the series, Dave’s Picks Volume. 24: Berkeley Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA 8/25/72 is a set that validates a Deadhead’s devotion and presents the full spectrum of attraction(s) for the uninitiated.