Day 353: Playing In The Band, 11/18/72

Grateful Dead Houston TX 11/18/72 album cover artwork

This marks the fifth and final Playing In The Band for the Dead for a Year project, and I notice that of the five selected, three of them came from 1972.

Of course, this isn’t mean to be an apology for my selections, but I’ve said before that 1972 was the year that Playing In The Band grew up and my choices attempt to demonstrate that. I am a bit surprised I didn’t opt for one of the Europe versions but I simply ran out of days. The Oklahoma version that was filler on DaP11 was the talk of the town when it was released and this one followed close on its heels in terms of chronology as well as hype when it was announced. The funny thing, to me at least, is that both of these were MUST LISTEN music when they were released so in some respects I wanted to help get them to as many people as possible since the one was limited edition and the other will probably sell out soon if it hasn’t already.

At the end of the day there weren’t many complaints that so much November 72 was released in such close succession so I assume readers here won’t mind either. You can argue with this kind of Playing (excuse the pun)!

If you’re a fan of Phil you will love this version of Playing In The Band, as he is high in the mix, leading the charge. Keith is a bit buried as others have noted elsewhere, and you listen a bit more attentively to pick out what the other band members are doing when Phil is really digging in but once they’re through the first verse things balance out a bit since Phil isn’t playing as hard. The vibe here is pressing but also with an ethereal quality that toys with the edges of deep space, but it too securely rooted in the groove, thanks to Billy, to bid a complete farewell to terra firma. Garcia is content to leave his wah on for a while and play with the tonal ranges that provides. It sounds like he leaves it in either the up or down position (I don’t remember which is which) to get a bit of extra bite in his tone. The pace and energy from the entire band is impressive. The rhythm is still driving pretty hard and they’ve been going at it for a solid ten minutes with no sign of quit. There haven’t been too many peaks and valleys at this point. There is less concern with dynamics here in lieu of some solid, straightforward rocking out. Phil remains the main presence here, but at things get a bit more frenzied around the 11:30 mark you can definitely hear pretty much everyone and what they’re doing. Perhaps it was just a bit of extra elbow grease, but you have to give props to the Dead for having great bass tone in their live shows.

As I listen to this I wonder what the monitor mix was like on stage for the band. Was Phil always this loud and clear in the mix? Is this what the band heard? Phil drops some major bombs just after 15:20 that sets Jerry along a new course for a few moments. Then another valley appears on the horizon, but this one doesn’t require a major descent. Jerry slices some piercing guitar into the fray right before minute 17, blazing a trail for the others to follow. And they do. The band then does indeed bring it down a bit. Then almost as if they’re watching the clock at 18:30 they explode into another round of fierce jamming. This turns out to be more like a match, with a huge initial flare up that turns into a steady burn, but the point is certainly made. Things die down a bit and at 21:40 Jerry starts to play around with the main Playing melody. They’re still high up in the atmosphere at this point, but Jerry has cleared the band for re-entry. A minute later the theme is stated with greater assurance and the second verse just waits patiently for its turn. The heat of re-entry isn’t as blazing as it could be and then the splash into the water as they kick it up a notch, Donna wails, and the second verse pours forth like cold water in a blacksmith’s workshop, tempering hot steel. The end comes peacefully, and the crowd roars it’s appreciation.

Complete Setlist 11/18/72

Previous Playing In The Band DFAY Selections

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One Comment
  1. Lunchbox,
    As you head down the final stretch on your project, I want to both thank you and congratulate you. The comments have lagged near the end, but I’m sure there are others, like myself that have continued to follow and look forward to you daily pick. What has become Lunchbox’s’ Picks. Your energy has continued to stay strong and adding this one is testament to that effort.
    I agree with all your takes on this incredible version. This Playin, for me, was one off those Holy S!!!!!s for my ears. Once in a while we all come across a version that demands numerous plays and this one continues to put a smile on my face.
    Like you, I have often wondered if the audience was hearing a similar sound, as you mention about Phil’s strong presence here. I’ve had similar questions on heavy Keith shows, which are versions I almost always love.
    In the past couple of months have had the luck of picking up the 2 fall 72 re-releases from real gone. Love em both and this release is a great compliment to those 2. Still move around with lovin one 1 year a lot, but probably have evolved to the point of not tryin to call one better than another. Just to enjoy them for what they are. Great music!!!!!
    Thanks again. Pretty sure you posted once about the Grateful Dead Society facebook page. I’m enjoying that site a lot and guessing you’ll probably being adding to that discussion, if you haven’t already. Look forward to your posts over there.
    All the Best
    Joe Milan

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