Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies: Beat Club 4/21/72 Review

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On July 17, Fathom Events and Rhino Entertainment teamed up to present the annual “Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies” in cinemas nationwide. This year's edition featured Beat Club 4/21/72, a live television-studio performance of the band recorded for a West German TV program during their highly regarded European tour of that year.

The band's line up at this time featured lead guitar/vocal Jerry Garcia, drums Bill Kreutzmann, bass Phil Lesh, keyboards Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, rhythm guitar/vocal Bob Weir, and the recent additions of married couple keyboards Keith (Oct. '71) and back-up singer Donna Jean (Mar. '72) Godchaux.  They played a shortened version of their current set. For this Fathom/Rhino event, and what I presume will be the eventual home-video release, the audio had been remastered from the original analog tapes. 

At the screening I attended, at the AMC Orange 30, in one of the cineplex's smallest houses, there were no more eight people in attendance when I walked in at what was about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time of 7:30.  There wasn't much of a "meet-up" as people wwre spread out and not interacting.  However, the screening didn't begin until 7:53pm, as if there was an awareness Deadheads would show up late, and right they were at our theater as people slowly straggled even into the first song.

As the lights went down, the night's program started with a promo for the massive Spring 1990 (The Other One) Box Set feautring eight concerts from that tour.  Bob Weir talked about the project, as did Branford Marsalis who played with the band one night, available separately as Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY 3/29/1990.

Then the main attraction began with the Grateful Dead goofing around as they tuned up and equipment was set up. The video was very colorful with tiedye images playing on the screen behind them, but it definitely had the look and limited clarity of old television video. They opened with "Bertha," and Jerry's guitar rang out so sweetly on the bridge. Donna joined Bob on vocals for "Playing In The Band," which featured an extended jam where their jazz influences were on display.  They kept a steady rhythm as Jerry ventured off on his solo.

Pigpen took his only lead vocal on "Mr. Charlie," and at our theater an older woman got up and danced. I was surprised more people weren't spinning and grooving in the aisles, and I was also surprised no one smoked during the show, as far as I could tell.  Maybe people got their fill in their cars or took edibles, but with this mix of old folks and college kids, I was couldn't believe not I didn't hear a cough or flick of a lighter the entire time.

The entire performance appears to be here warts and all, as we see the lilting "Sugaree" halted when Jerry claims "somebody played the wrong change," and during the second "Playing in the Band," Bob stopped due to some high-pitched feedback.  There is also a mistake at the beginning of "Truckin'" that makes them start over, but it's worth t as Jerry really shines with his sweet guitar runs.

They segued right into "Drums," allowing Bill some time to shine in the spotlight, and then into "The Other One," a jam that goes on so long, they seem to lose the thread, which is understandable because I lost interest during it.  It's the only misstep of the evening.

Yet, they don't want to stop. Jerry, Bob, and Phil face the speakers and began noodling.  Pigpen and Bill join in and just as they sound like they are about to start a song, the image fades to black.

Overall, a great performance by the band and presentation by Fathom/Rhino. I can't wait to see what they pull out of the vaults for next year's "Meet-Up at the Movies."

Setlist:

1. Bertha
2. Playing In The Band
3. Mr. Charlie
4. Sugaree
5. One More Saturday Night
6. Playing In The Band
7. Beat It On Down the Line
8. Truckin'>
9. Drums>
10. The Other One

The audio is available as a Dead.net exclusive item.

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