When you’ve released as many live albums and box sets as The Grateful Dead have, you have to find new ways to keep fans interested. And the keepers of the band’s eternal flame have approached this creative and commercial challenge with an ongoing series of satisfying high-concept releases. They’ve issued box sets with one live show from every year of the band’s existence, all the concerts from specific tours, and even all the gigs from particular months. For the upcoming 20-disc behemoth Listen To The River, they present another concept: Seven complete shows recorded over two years in St. Louis. Why? I’ll let the press release explain, while I try to fine some room on my buckling shelf of Dead boxes:
Steamboats and BBQ, ice cream cones and Mardi Gras — are you ready to laissez les bons temps rouler with the “gateway” to The Grateful Dead? Meet us, won’t you, in St. Louis for seven complete and previously unreleased concerts that capture the heart of the band’s affinity for the River City.
Listen To The River: St. Louis ’71 ’72 ’73 is a 20-CD set featuring five shows from the Fox Theatre (Dec. 9 and 10, 1971; Oct. 17-19, 1972) and two from the Kiel Auditorium (Oct. 29 and 30, 1973). The seven shows in the collection span slightly less than two years, but they represent some of the best shows The Grateful Dead played during some of their peak tours. The music tells the story of a band evolving, changing from one sound to another seamlessly, precipitated — in large part — by significant personnel changes in the Dead’s lineup.
The two 1971 shows feature the original Grateful Dead lineup plus newcomer Keith Godchaux on piano. This version of the band would hold together for the next six months as the Dead embarked upon its Europe ’72 tour. By the time the Dead returned to the Fox Theatre less than a year later, they were without Pigpen, who’d played his final show with the Dead at the Hollywood Bowl on June 17, 1972, and they had added Donna Jean Godchaux, who was now singing in the band. A year after the exceptional Fox 1972 shows, the Dead came back to St. Louis, but played the much larger Kiel Auditorium, touring behind the release of Wake Of The Flood, which came out just two weeks before.
All told, the band played 60 different songs during these shows highlighted by blazing romps through Beat It On Down The Line and One More Saturday Night and wistful takes on Row Jimmy and Brokedown Palace (whose lyrics give the collection its name). Meanwhile, the copious jamming ebbed and flowed like the mighty Mississippi River on multiple voyages through The Other One and Dark Star. Naturally, the band paid tribute to one of its favorite rock and rollers and one of St. Louis’ biggest stars by playing Chuck Berry songs at every show in the collection, including Pigpen galloping through Run Rudolph Run.
Each show has been restored and speed corrected using Plangent Processes with mastering by Jeffrey Norman. The collection comes in a slipcase with artwork by Liane Plant and features an 84-page hardbound book as well as other Dead surprises. To set the stage for the music, the liner notes provide several essays about the shows, including one by Sam Cutler, the band’s tour manager during that era, and another by Grateful Dead scholar Nicholas G. Meriwether, among others. Due Oct. 1, Listen To The River: St. Louis ’71 ’72 ’73, is limited to 13,000 individually numbered copies and available exclusively from Dead.net.