Grateful Dead – Europe ’72: 40 Years Later – A Look Back At Hundred Year Hall

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 Jahrhundert Halle in Frankfurt…

April 26th, 1972, Jahrhundert Halle, Frankfurt, West Germany

Portions of the almost four hour Frankfurt show from April 26th were released in 1995 – the first archival release after the passing of Jerry Garcia- as Hundred Year Hall, a phenomenal, yet heavily abridged 2-disc set. Everything from the beautiful artwork to Robert Hunter’s reflective liner notes still makes this one of my all-time favorite releases. 2011′s ‘Euro Box’ now presents the entire show spanning four CDs. The 20-song marathon first set is sprinkled with great versions of many classics including Bertha, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed and the debut reading of Pigpen’s final tune – The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion) – one of only seven versions ever performed.

The new mix and clarity are light years better than the original 1995 release – technology certainly has come a long way since then, as this new version proves. The “Plangent Process” was used during the production phase of the box set – a process designed to remove wow and flutter that commonly exists on playback of analog tape. Beyond correcting those anomalies, it also fleshes out a fuller dimension of the actual music while still retaining the depth and warmth of the original analog recording. A comparison of the two versions is literally night and day – the new version’s notes jump right out of the speakers – a perfect excuse to crank this one up a bit.

Most of the equally exciting second set can already be found on Hundred Year Hall, but watch out for yet another excellent Good Lovin’ to kick off the set. It’s one of the shorter ones from Europe, but the band charges on from the first notes, forcing Pigpen to work a little bit harder to find his entrances. Instead of allowing Pig his usual space, the band maintains the momentum throughout this version – Pig even drops a James Brown-inspired ‘tighten up!!’ midway just to make sure they didn’t forget who owns the stage. Archivist David Lemieux selected this particular version to be on 2011′s Europe ’72 : Volume 2 – the long overdue follow-up companion to the almost 40-year old Europe ’72 album.

For me, the final 30 minutes of the Frankfurt show are what will always remain in my own personal listening rotation. The Turn On Your Lovelight > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > One More Saturday Night medley – while not a standout on paper – is a perfect microcosm of the 22-show tour. Lovelight, the first of three versions from Europe, begins as most others, but once Pig concludes the verses – like the majority of the second set – we’re treated to another extended musical workout co-led by Jerry Garcia and Billy Kreutzmann. As if this tune was selected to simply ‘continue jamming’ beyond the normal time constraints the band was generally playing under is impossible to determine – but it sure sounds like it. Phil Lesh recalled in a 1995 interview, “Billy played like a young god on this tour. I mean, he was everywhere on the drums, and just kickin’ our butts every which way, which is what drummers live to do, you know.”

During the fitness created, tons of bluesy licks keep the driving tempos hot, and at the verge of an inevitable release it is here where the band stands at the crossroads. Garcia cues Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad at a brisk pace, while Billy and Bobby coax the band to step into Not Fade Away territory. As tempos and band member alliances change hands a couple of times during these very interesting two or three minutes, a six-sided conversation blossoms with nobody willing to give up the musical conch. With one last effort, Garcia wrestles for the reins, and eventually the group concedes, falling beautifully into GDTRFB – like it was the plan all along. Reflecting on that particular musical section, Lesh further explains, “That’s the stuff that we dream about. That’s the stuff that we aim for, that’s the stuff that’s the most fun to do, and it’s the most magical and it’s the stuff that nobody – you can never predict what’s gonna happen. Although there are some factors that are involved – for instance, with only one drummer, we could turn faster, we could shift gears rhythmically, differently than we do with two. It’s like you’re heavier, and going faster with two drummers, and it’s hard to change direction. So that was a particular thing we could do with tempo, and the thing about it was, it was never all in one direction – we could go faster or slower, and sometimes both at the same time. And, uh, it was just – those moments are, you know, true goose-bumpers, for me.”

Bobby Weir lights one final batch of fireworks with a well-executed One More Saturday Night to close out the longest non-festival show of the European trek in brilliant fashion. No encore necessary, this did the trick – well played. It’s clear the band was now gaining significant momentum with each passing show. The next two from Hamburg and Paris are some of the best of the entire tour – an amazing run.

Grateful Dead, April 26th, 1972, Jahrhundert Halle, Frankfurt, West Germany:

Set I: Bertha, Me and My Uncle, Mr. Charlie, He’s Gone, Black-Throated Wind, Next Time You See Me, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Jack Straw, Big Railroad Blues, Playin’ In The Band, Chinatown Shuffle, Loser, Beat It On Down The Line, You Win Again, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Greatest Story Ever Told, The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion), Casey Jones

Set II: Good Lovin’, Dire Wolf, Truckin’ > Drums > The Other One > Comes A Time, Sugar Magnolia, Turn On Your Lovelight > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > One More Saturday Night

Joe Kolbenschlag
Huntersville, NC

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3 thoughts on “Grateful Dead – Europe ’72: 40 Years Later – A Look Back At Hundred Year Hall

  1. bob Reply

    I think the song, The Stranger made its debut in NYC at the Academy of Music in March of 1972

  2. Augustus Westus Reply

    Joe – excellent series and particularly informative analysis here. Keep up the great work. Inquiring minds want to know: is Europe 90 next up on the Steel Cut docket? Taken as a tour, nothing special – but employing your highlight format I think you might have a winner. RIP LEVON

  3. JoeKolby Reply

    Bob – You are absolutely correct. I believe they played The Stranger 3 or 4 times during that late March NYC run….our error, and thanks for the clarification.

    Augustus – Hi! Europe ’90 is an excellent suggestion, it is a tour we have not considered, but we’re wide open as usual. We’re not sure what direction we’ll be moving the series in. We enjoy putting together the downloadable compilations, but I really liked working the Euro Box this winter….highlighting specific shows has been really fun.

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