May 11 – Rotterdam, Netherlands

In April 1972, the Grateful Dead embarked on their now-legendary Europe ’72 Tour. The band performed 22 times between April 7 and May 26, resulting in the landmark triple live LP, Europe ’72 that was released in October of that year. To celebrate the legacy of the band’s historic tour abroad, JamBase presents a retrospective look back at each of the Europe 1972 Grateful Dead performances.


The Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 Tour followed a Wednesday night gig in Amsterdam with a Thursday night performance 70 kilometers away in Rotterdam. The concert was the second of two the band played in the Netherlands on the Europe ’72 Tour. While the show in Amsterdam took place in a concert hall built in 1888, the Rotterdam performance was held in a building that had opened just six years earlier.

The Dead’s Rotterdam performance was held in the Grote Zaal, the largest of three concert halls located within de Doelen. The venue, which houses the smaller Eduard Flipse Zaal and Jurriaanse Zaal, opened in 1966 with state-of-the-art design and exceptional acoustics. Though the building itself was new, its history dates back to the 17th century.

The beginning of de Doelen dates back to around 1622 when a guild of archers started gathering in Rotterdam. By 1680, an orchestra made up of local musicians began performing regular concerts in a building called de Doelen that was located on the Haagscheveer. In 1697, the Rotterdam City Council formally sanctioned the hosting of concerts, under the conditions that events take “place without the slightest obnoxiousness and no drink may be consumed.”

According to the venue’s website:

In 1844, the “Groote Doelezaal” on the Coolsingel was opened to replace “De Doele” on the Haagscheveer. After almost 100 years of use as a concert hall and for parties, this hall had to be closed in 1930 due to dilapidation. The new Doelenzaal, which was put into use in 1934, was destroyed in May 1940 during the [World War II] bombing of Rotterdam. The bombing of May 1940 not only destroyed the historic core of Rotterdam, but also a thriving, versatile and international musical life. Before the official opening, the building was colloquially referred to as the “Rotterdam Concertgebouw” – much to the dislike of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw [where the Dead performed on May 10, 1972].

On 9 July 1962, Eduard Flipse drove the first pile of the current building: a design by the architects EH and HM Kraaijvanger and RH Fledderus. Concert and congress building de Doelen was opened on 18 May 1966 and the tradition of a Rotterdam concert hall called “de Doelen,” dating back to the 17th century could be restored.

The official opening in 1966 took place on May 18, the annual celebration of Construction Day. That date was a reminder of the city council’s assignment to city architect Witteveen to design a new city—just four days after the bombing on May 14, 1940. This determination was typical of the reconstruction period, in which all attention was paid to living and working . Every year on Construction Day, new buildings, harbor quays and residential flats were festively opened.

The fact that Opbouwdag 1966 was dominated by the opening of a cultural plateau such as de Doelen (and of the underground Schouwburgplein garage, a novelty of the first order!) was felt to be the culmination of the reconstruction.

Prior to the Dead’s May 11, 1972 arrival, Grote Zaal hosted concerts featuring the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Beach Boys and others, including Elton John who performed at Grote Zaal on April 14, 1972.

The second of two “Playing In The Band” show starters of the tour began the first set in Rotterdam. Guitarist Bob Weir and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux wiped up an exuberant conclusion to the 10-minute opener. Guitarist Jerry Garcia then took a turn fronting the band on “Sugaree.” Keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan then got his first go singing lead on his “Mr. Charlie.” The Rotterdam show saw Pigpen front the band on eight of the 10 songs he sang lead on in Europe.

The first set featured Pigpen’s harmonica and Garcia’s slide guitar trading licks on “Hurts Me Too.” And Garcia traded vocal parts with Weir when they played “Jack Straw,” cementing the trend that started in Amsterdam the night before.

Along with the 10-minute “Playing,” opener, first set improvisation came from a lively “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” pairing, as well as the late-set “Good Lovin’.” JerryBase, an endlessly rich resource for Grateful Dead setlists and more, notes that the Rotterdam “Good Lovin’” featured Pigpen on organ. Later Europe ’72 performances of “Good Lovin’” would see Garcia playing the organ. Rotterdam’s “Good Lovin’” saw Pigpen deliver a typically impassioned, and in this case relatively concise, stream-of-consciousness rap. The tour’s most common first set closer, “Casey Jones” set up a 20-minute intermission.

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The second set began with “Morning Dew,” which was the Dead’s first performance of the song in Europe, bringing the total at the time to 50 different songs played across the first 15 performances. The Rotterdam “Morning Dew” was also the first time the band played the Bonnie Dobson song with keyboardist Keith Godchaux, as it was last played on August 6, 1971, two months before Keith started playing in the band. Weir broke a string during “Morning Dew,” prompting Garcia to tell the audience they were going to need to pause while Bobby fixed it.

The first part of the second set progressed with Weir, Pigpen and Garcia taking turns on a few tight tunes. Next came what’s considered a contender for the longest “Dark Star” ever played by the Grateful Dead. The tracklist released as part of the Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings box set separates the Rotterdam “Dark Star” into two parts bridged by Bill Kreutzmann’s drum solo. Added together, the “Dark Star” into “Drums” into “Dark Star” (or “Dark Star” depending on how you’re scoring at home) running time clocks in at 48 minutes and 7 seconds, putting it at or near the top of longest ever played.

Bassist Phil Lesh Kreutzmann at the accompanied end of his solo, which came after a 13-minute initial introduction of “Dark Star.” Another half-hour of “Dark Star” unfolded with Garcia finally delivers the first verse 23 minutes after the song started. The deep and expansive improvisation saw the band at its freaky, free-form finest, ebbing and flowing from explosive psychedelia to restrained jazz and all places in between.

After the episodic “Dark Star” came a segue into “Sugar Magnolia,” which was a Europe ’72 pairing. Pigpen then got his final call of the night, as the band charged up “Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks).” The performance was also the final time the Grateful Dead played the song which dates back to 1965 when they were known as The Warlocks. Pigpen tagged the Rotterdam “Caution” with a “Who Do You Love” quote, which was also the final time that occurred at a Dead concert.

“Caution” dates back to at least a pre-Warlocks recording session held on November 3, 1965. The demos recorded for Autumn Records at Golden State Recorders in San Francisco were attributed to their extremely short-lived band name, “The Emergency Crew. ”

Along with “Caution,” the session saw the developing band lay down studio cuts of early originals “Can’t Come Down,” “Mindbender” and “The Only Time Is Now.” Weir, Garcia, Pigpen, Lesh and Kreutzmaan, also tracked covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” and eventual setlist staple, “I Know You Rider.”

According to JerryBase, “Caution” made its live debut on January 8, 1966, at the Fillmore Acid Test. A nine-minute version of “Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)” appeared on the band’s 1968 hybrid studio/live album, Anthem Of The Sun. The Rotterdam performance of “Caution” was the 55th public performance of the song credited to Pigpen on Anthem and later to the entire band.

As noted by Sir Alex Allan’s excellent Grateful Dead lyrics websiteWeir stated “Caution” was inspired by the song “Mystic Eyes” by Them, while Lesh detailed the history of “Caution” in a discussion with photographer Jay Blakesberg at a 2015 event at Terrapin Crossroads celebrating the Grateful Dead in 1965.

Watch Lesh tell his “Caution” origin story below (starting at 16:17):

[Phil Lesh transcript via Whitegum.com] OK. It’s quite a story really. And it stretches out over time, of course. But we were on a train. I think we were going to Vancouver. And we’re in the vestibule – between the cars. And the train is going [makes train on tracks noises]. And this monster groove just driving forward, and it’s not speeding up. So we’re looking at each other and saying “we gotta play this, we gotta play this”. And Jerry is on the outside, by the opening. And all of a sudden he just leans over, and starts to fall outwards. Bob like a snake goes [makes grabbing gesture]. Grabs him and pulls him in. Just then another train goes by at about 90 million miles an hour [makes noise of train roaring by]. That was a close one. To be sure. I mean, that would have nipped it right in the bud. So, later that night – I just remembered this today – we worked up “Caution” from that experience. And I just realized, I just remembered today, the sound of that train going by in the other direction is exactly the sound of Jerry going [repeats noise of train roaring by] in “Caution” – that was his signature lick in “Caution”. Well, I mean, maybe you had to be there. It’s very significant to me.

The set concluded with “Caution” bleeding into “Truckin’” and the only “Uncle John’s Band” second set closer of the tour. Though it was left off the officially released “complete” recording, the encore of the Thursday night concert was “One More Saturday Night.” None of the songs played in Rotterdam were chosen for the original Europe ’72 live album.

Despite that, according to Blair Jackson’s liner notes from the complete release, the May 11, 1972, Grateful Dead concert was the band’s beloved tape archivist Dick Latvala’s favorite Europe ’72 performance.

Here are additional statistics and information regarding the 15th performance of the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 tour:

At-a-Glance

The Show

May 11, 1972

2,200

44

The Music

16 songs / 94 minutes

13 songs / 134 minutes

29 Songs / 228 minutes
19 originals / 10 covers / 1 tour debuts

Dark Star (Part II) 30:33

Chinatown Shuffle 3:10

10:52

11 Jerry / 10 Bobby / 8 Pigpen

14

50


Set One: Playing In The Band, Sugaree, Mr. Charlie, Black Throated Wind, Deal, Chinatown Shuffle [1]Mexicali Blues, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Hurts Me Too, Beat It On Down The Line, Brown Eyed Women, Jack Straw, Big Railroad Blues, Good Lovin’ [2]Casey Jones

Set Two: Morning Dew [3]Me And My Uncle, Two Souls In Communion, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Next Time You See Me, Dark Star > Drums > Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia > Caution [4] > Who Do You Love [4] > Truckin’, Uncle John’s Band

Encore: One More Saturday Night

Notes:

  • [1] released on So Many Roads (1965 – 1995)
  • [2] Pig plays organ
  • [3] Last performance (by GD) 1971-08-06 (59 events ago)
  • [4] Final performance (by GD)

Below, stream the official recording of the Grateful Dead’s May 11, 1972 concert at Grote Zaal, De Doelen in Rotterdam, Netherlands or check out other recordings via Archive.org:

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