The Grateful Dead Newcastle City Hall 1972

The Grateful Dead Newcastle City Hall 1972
dead Some gigs take on a whole new level of importance as time goes on. This is one such gig. When the Grateful Dead came to Newcastle City Hall to play a concert in 1972 I went along more out of curiosity than as a fan of this legendary band. I knew very little of their material; I’d probably heard Casey Jones, Truckin’ and Dark Star, but not much else. I’d also read that they played very long concerts, sometimes going on for 5 or 6 hours. Since then I’ve picked up most of their albums over the years, and appreciate just how great The Grateful Dead are. This gig is definitely one I wish I could go to again, knowing then what I know now, as the say. But, hey, such is life. At least I got to see them even if I didn’t savour this gig the way I should have.
I had a seat in the third row, and went along quite excited to see what these guys were like. The place was full of hard core hippy types, and there was a distinct smell of dope in the air. The Dead’s amplifiers were decked out in psychedelic tie dye colours, and there was a whole lot of gear on the stage. There was no support act, and the Dead came on pretty promptly at 7.30pm and started their set. The songs seemed a mix of countryish rock with long meandering psychedelic west coast guitar solos. I was seated more or less directly in front of Bob Weir, who sported a long pony tail which was almost down to his waist. Jerry Garcia was on the other side of the stage. Pigpen was wearing his cowboy hat and playing his Hammond organ. Sometime between 9pm and 10pm the Dead took a break before returning for a second set, which seemed to go on for ever. I enjoyed the concert, but it just went on a little too long for me. I also found it heavy going, because I wasn’t familiar with the material.
My dad used to sometimes drive through and pick me up from the City Hall, and I’d asked him to do so that night, as I figured I might miss the last train home. I think I’d asked him to come along for 11.30pm, as I thought the concert would go on quite late. As it was, I decided I better leave at midnight, as I knew he was sitting in the car waiting outside. However, I regret to this day leaving this gig early. I heard from others that they played until after 1am. These shows are, of course, now legendary; it is generally recognised that The Dead were at their best during this tour. This was their first European jaunt, and the tour was recorded, and a selection of songs released on the Europe 1972 triple album. The entire tour has recently been released as a box set.
Set I: Greatest Story Ever Told; Deal; Mr. Charlie; Black Throated Wind; Tennessee Jed; Big Boss Man; Beat It on Down the Line; Sugaree; Jack Straw; Chinatown Shuffle; China Cat Sunflower; I Know You Rider; Playing in the Band; Next Time You See Me; Brown-Eyed Women; Looks Like Rain; Big Railroad Blues; Casey Jones.
Set II: Good Lovin’; Ramble on Rose; Truckin’; Drums; The Other One; Comes a Time; Sugar Magnolia; Brokedown Palace.
Encore: One More Saturday Night

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Angus Stephenson on July 7, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Hi, Interesting stuff. I was thinking of the Grateful Dead today because some American friends went to their farewell gigs in Chicago last week. I’m in my ’60s now and went to that 1972 gig n Newcastle at a time when I went to a lot of gigs. I certainly remember the Grateful Dead starting at 7.30 on the dot because in those days you were far more likely to get a whole load of gormless roadies wanging about on stage for about half an hour first…Testing,testing,one,two,one two…..followed by ear-splitting screeches of feedback…..but I reckon the show must have finished before 11.0 pm (I stayed to the end) because the City Hall was very strict about that.

    I went to another gig there, I think in 1969, when another West coast legendary band were on, Moby Grape. This was in the days when they sometimes tried to squeeze in 3 or 4 bands playing a few numbers each and they got two sets an evening out of them, an early and a late set. On the Moby Grape night, the early set overran and the mood of the late set punters was not good, as they had been kept queuing outside in a snowstorm for a long time. When we were finally allowed in, there wasn’t time for all the groups to play and in the middle of a song by Family, who played really rocky aggressive stuff at the time, the management suddenly turned off the power onstage at exactly 11 o’clock, switched the house lights on and told everybody to go home. The crowd went absolutely MAD, a full-scale riot broke out, the police were called to break it up and a couple of the guys in Family were among the injured. (I wasn’t but it was mighty explosive!). So I don’t think going on to 1.0 am was likely but 3 and a half hours would still have been a long one.

    Best wishes and thanks for the review,

    Angus

    Reply

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