Taking a break from the news, I attended the 2022 edition of the annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the suburban AMC multiplex in Eden Prairie, Minnesota last night. This year’s Meet-Up featured a showing of the Dead’s April 17, 1972 concert at the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark. The footage derived from what was advertised as the first-ever broadcast of a a live concert on Danish television.
Last night’s event represented a resumption of the annual Meet-Ups after a three-year hiatus induced by the plague hysteria. I did not see a single mask in evidence last night.
The Meet-Ups draw an older crowd. The audience for the show had the highest median age in the multiplex’s 18 theaters by a wide margin. The audience was not only the oldest but also the happiest, again by far. By contrast with the 2019 Meet-Up I attended, no one was dancing in the aisle, but the audience applauded after every number. We would have been happy to be there if only in the existential sense, but we were especially happy with the resumption of the Meet-Ups. In an introductory message David Lemieux promised more to come.
The Dead’s European tour was first memorialized on a fantastic three-album set. This year’s Meet-Up celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Europe ‘72 album, It’s a fantastic live album featuring the Dead’s original line-up plus Keith Godchaux. The godawful Donna Jean Godchaux appeared in the film toward the end only to dance onstage.
The band’s return to the Tivoli made for the sixth show on the Dead’s Europe ’72 tour. The footage has been restored and color corrected in High Definition with audio mixed from the 16-track analog master tapes. The film, however, features less than 90 minutes of a much-longer concert.
The show included an overview of the Dead’s 1972 touring repertoire, including versions of “China Cat Sunflower,” “I Know You Rider,” “Big Railroad Blues,” as well as the first live performance of “He’s Gone” and other new songs including the great “Jack Straw” and “One More Saturday Night.” The Europe ’72 tour was Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s last with the band. He sounded in good form on the three songs he covers in the film.
The film does not follow the original order of the band’s setlist that night (setlist here). The film captures only a disordered fraction of the Dead’s concert. Where is the rest of it? The answer is out there somewhere. I wish Lemieux had offered some explanation.
The film only provides a glimpse of the band stretching out, Dead style. That surprised me. “Truckin’” afforded the glimpse. I loved it.
Although it wasn’t the closing number in the concert, the film closes on an upbeat note with “One More Saturday Night.”
In my comments on the 2017-2019 Meet-Ups I lamented the band’s partially drug-related mortality. This time around I was struck by the survival of core members including Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann (Donna Jean Godchaux is also still with us). Long may they run.
Next year in Eden Prairie!