Grateful Dead – Europe ’72 40 Years Later: Stuck Inside of Copenhagen With The Aarhus Blues Again

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Europe ’72, a legendary Grateful Dead tour now available in all its 16-track glory, we enlisted the help of Joe Kolbenschlag and the Steel Cut Oats team to break down a handful of the most memorable shows from the run. Today, they continue with a look at a performance that took place 40 years ago today at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Grateful Dead, April 16th, 1972, Stakladen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark:

When the “Euro Box” (Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings) was announced in January 2011, the first thing I thought about was being able to hear the 16-track upgrades to some of the shows that circulated with less-than-perfect quality in the past. My short list included the performances from Newcastle, Hamburg and the Bickershaw Festival set. I was much more familiar with April’s half of the tour (England, Denmark, West Germany), and although most were available in at least decent to very good quality, I figured I probably hadn’t missed out on too many of its offerings, although there was one show that never really caught my attention – until now…

Two of April’s classics happen to come from the same venue in Copenhagen, Denmark. On April 14th and 17th, 1972, the Grateful Dead played the Tivoli Concert Hall – a venue built in the 1950’s, designed to host classical music concerts. With its excellent acoustics, and seating for just under 1700, it was a perfect venue to begin the journey through “The Continent.” It’s important to note that this was the first time the band had performed to a ticketed non-English speaking audience. They had played once before in France (June 21st, 1971), but that was more of a special invitation after the festival they were booked to play was rained out. Instead, the group retreated to the famed Chateau d’Herouville near Paris, and performed to mostly unknowing local townsfolk. Garcia recalled, “It was an event and everybody just had a hell of a time — got drunk, fell in the pool. It was great.”

The first night’s gig from Copenhagen is the quintessential Europe ’72 party tape – a giddy affair that opens with my favorite Bertha of the tour, and is book-ended by some classic Pigpen in the knockout Good Lovin’ > Caution > Who Do You Love? > Caution > Good Lovin’ combo. The second Copenhagen show was also already well-known partly due to its widely bootlegged video of about eighty minutes of the three hour performance. Highlights of the pro-shot color footage include a beautiful China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider preceding the very first reading of the soon-to-be Dead staple, He’s Gone. This is as formal of a long-form video document that we will probably ever see from this tour, so make a point to view a copy if you have not already. The initial three-set show of the run was extremely popular in trading circles way back when as I’ve heard tapes of it as far back as twenty years ago, so I’m guessing this one has been circulating much longer than most.

Curiously tucked in between these two shows was a concert performed in the port city of Aarhus, Denmark on April 16th. Played at an on-campus cafeteria/canteen at Aarhus University called Stakladen, the tables and chairs were cleared away as best they could, leaving room for what appears to have been no more than 700 students. Upon arrival, the band didn’t have an adjacent practice space or much of an official dressing room, so the ‘fly by night’ vibe for both the group and audience was set well before the concert was to kick off. The previously existing copies of the Aarhus show were not complete – full tracks and portions of jams were missing, and the quality also left a little more to be desired. Compared to the balance of the April shows pre-“Euro Box,” this one ranked at the very bottom in terms of its sound – very hissy with an odd mix at times. Thankfully, we can now enjoy this show in top notch audio quality.

[Venue Photo via Music Marauders]

Falling out of the rotation as a consistent opener after this show, Greatest Story Ever Told allowed the band to flex some early muscle. As Weir spins a wild tale of Moses, Abraham and Isaac, one can detect something missing compared to any other night of the tour – where’s Donna? According to the liner notes, Mrs. Godchaux was “absent from this show for unknown reasons.” Either way, for some ears, it may be the deal-maker to pick this show up, but in her defense, it does feel as if there’s a lack of direction as the band closes out the introductory tune without her patented shrieks of joy. The next few numbers also fail to register – similar to the first sets from April 8th (London) and April 11th (Newcastle), Jerry’s wires are crossed early on – in fact, Garcia tunes his guitar during Chinatown Shuffle and Black-Throated Wind adding to the strange start.

Continuing to forge a bumpy and inconsistent path (Tennessee Jed, Mr. Charlie, BIODTL), the first watershed moments of the set inevitably occur during the jams inside of China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider. Finally, a musical comfort level begins to develop – and although this version will not be confused with some of the true standouts from April and May, the band members begin to display one of their strongest attributes – listening to each other. These twelve minutes serve as the prelude to the balance of the show, as the tone changes considerably afterwards. The transition jams offer Bobby space to create a slashing solo that the rest of the band picks up on – Jerry and Phil show patience by allowing this portion to breathe a bit. Keith drops these odd rolls as they move into I Know You Rider, and the group settles into a mellow decent towards the verses where everything aligns. The even tempos are very pleasing throughout the track, and the warmth of the recording shines here big time – this version doesn’t reach major peaks, but simmers consistently until the end.

Taking advantage of this new footing, Weir pitches the first Mexicali Blues of the tour and it’s played as if it had never left the set list. Closing out Disc #1, Loser is the tops of the tour up to that point, and Pigpen delivers his best performance of the evening (so far) with Next Time You See Me – Pig, Jerry, and Keith carry the torch, and are spot-on with all of their solos.

Disc #2 features a couple of significant highlights – the Garcia-led Playin’ In The Band and a filthy Good Lovin’ ushered by Mr. Ron McKernan, who reestablishes why he’s called Pigpen. Up to this point – with Playin’ in the set list for 14 months – I’d have to say that the ‘best version of all time’ came from the first Copenhagen show. It’s a complete departure from the initial three interpretations of the tune from England, as it possesses an extremely aggressive attitude as compared to all that precede it. As if Garcia was using the rest of the band to play a cruel trick on, he returned to the theme several times pulling the band back from their intentional drifts.

Two nights later in Aarhus, Jerry runs the table a minute outside of the verses concluding and doesn’t look back – the band recognizes this early on, and follows his path with an unbridled allegiance. As close to a ‘Tiger’ jam meltdown as we’ve heard on the tour in this context, the next few minutes sprawl with a hostile energy where all players keep the pedal down – classic 1972. Now, Pigpen led some lengthy Good Lovin’ narrations during his tenure – Princeton ’71, Fillmore East ’71, and, of course, Copenhagen ’72 are all-timers. Typically raunchy, each spun its own salacious tale – but this one would make a Hell’s Angel blush. The Aarhus Good Lovin’ is the dirtiest of them all – and you can’t help but wonder if Donna’s absence had something to do with it. So did that make him a sinner or a saint? Give this 20 minute romp a spin and judge for yourself – one of the last great Pig-infused jams.

A ragged Truckin’ opens the final disc. Considering they’ve played this every night of the tour, I would have expected some sort of larger fanfare or better synergy – boredom may have set in temporarily, I suppose. The track quickly dissipates into a Phil-led jam with the balance of the band in tow. Immediately different than most post-Truckin’ jams up to here, you can sense some real magic is about to unfold, and what happens next is what makes this show so special. Jerry hints at The Other One for a moment, but pulls back…drums and keys disappear…a simple pattern develops between Jerry, Bobby, and Phil…Billy chimes in very quietly, Keith begins to reintroduce himself as Billy adds more toms to the mix. Thumbing unfiltered chords, Phil continues to lead the jam…Pig makes himself known on organ, and Jerry cues The Other One for a second time quickly shelving the idea while moving into a new direction. Billy and Keith are excellent here as they add delicate color to what might be considered one of the first full-on Phil/Jerry space jams – as the intensity of the jam elevates, the band jumps in perfectly matching the sinister mood that Garcia and Lesh are portraying. Highs and lows are met…again, Jerry concedes while playing an almost perfect note for note compliment to Phil who has now taken full ownership of this space.

The unusual and welcomed bass rumblings dominate leaving Jer and Keith as the only ones left in Lesh’s diabolical game – scary beautiful. Jerry’s brighter tones contrast against Phil’s spiraling madness as the notes must have been bouncing off the walls of the tiny venue like crazy. This passage sounds more like something from Summer 1974 – awesome musical foreshadowing. The last few minutes of this spontaneous and incredible burst transcend a Dark Star or an Other One – this is jam personified, and quite possibly the best improvisational piece of the entire Europe ’72 tour – amazing and polarizing. I’ve listened to this section more than any other from the “Euro Box.” Afterwards, we lose Jerry for about four minutes, as the band closes the show with a 25 minute The Other One > Me and My Uncle > The Other One > Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away campaign. The NFA suite is unbelievably good, prompting the decision to skip out on an encore this night – time to get back on the bus and head back to Copenhagen.

A final discussion point to consider is if this show comprised of one or two sets. A generally accepted set break occurs prior to the Good Lovin’, but as I reviewed the old hissy tapes against the new shiny official version, I found that both copies fade in at the same time prior to Good Lovin’ starting. The song before is Dire Wolf, and it seems unlikely that they would close the set with that, as Casey Jones was the overwhelming closer of most first frames of the tour. I think what happened here is Betty and Dennis took advantage after Dire Wolf to simply replace the current reels with fresh ones (Dire Wolf fades out unprofessionally fast on the “Euro Box,” indicating a quick reel flip in the truck after the track’s conclusion) also being unaware of the band’s intentions for the evening. It would also make sense, since the band didn’t have a legitimate dressing room, to skip an intermission and just keep playing. It is the Grateful Dead after all, and something to think about.

Overcoming a slow start in Aarhus, the band came back strong putting together some of the finer moments from the Denmark run. This show has a little bit of everything, and as they complete the Danish experience the following night, they continued to gel as they play some of their best European shows in West Germany and Paris next. With the combination of a one-of-a-kind jam, superior group dynamics, and some of Pigpen’s raunchiest raps – the now officially complete Aarhus show certainly fits the criteria as one of the better gigs from Europe ’72.

Grateful Dead, April 16th, 1972, Stakladen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark:

Greatest Story Ever Told, Sugaree, Chinatown Shuffle, Black-Throated Wind, Tennessee Jed, Mr. Charlie, Beat It On Down The Line, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Mexicali Blues, Loser, Next Time You See Me, Playin’ In The Band, Dire Wolf, Good Lovin’, Cumberland Blues, El Paso, Deal, Truckin’ > Jam > The Other One > Me and My Uncle > The Other One > Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away

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2 Responses

  1. Hi
    I was there and can answer the last question: Did the Dead play one or two sets? They played one. The whole show lasted three and a half hour and I had to go to the toilet from the very beginning but sitting 2 meters (we were sitting on the floor) from the stage I was afraid of loosing my place and therefore crossed my legs and enjoyed the fantastic performance. One of the greatest concert I have attended and there was no break. Is it possible still to buy the Euro Box??

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