. . . The month of May  saw the Grateful Dead play an historic set at the Hollywood Festival, held at Finney Green near Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the British press were unanimous in their appraisal of the band's performance. Good old Mac Garry (in ZigZag 13) said that they were "totally magnificent", and Dick Lawson in Frendz No.8 went completely bonkers over it all, describing their set as "the most ecstatic exploratory music ever witnessed in England".
. . . The band consider themselves to be unclassifiable and without limitations insofar as they're not a blues band or a country band or an experimental band or even a rock'n'roll band, but "a group of musicians with lots of possibilities". In live performance they'll assume all of these styles and many more besides, so the fact that they might start off with 'Me and My Uncle', flow straight into 'Dark Star', and then come down to finish off with 'Johnny B.Goode', should really come as no surprise. Those of you who saw them on their last visit here will know exactly what I mean. . . .
. . . [In 1972] I was fortunate enough to be able to see them four times, twice at Wembley Pool and twice at the Lyceum, London, and it's quite possible that I haven't been the same since.
Most of the great West Coast bands to emerge during the late sixties have, over the years, received the dubious pleasures of a vast overblown reputation almost entirely created by the news media that puts them in a situation where they've got totally unrealistic expectations to live up to whenever they visit this country to play. The Doors and the Airplane were both superb on their initial appearances over here, but as their reputations spiralled, they were obviously past their peak and are now no longer the important bands they once were. The Doors are excused for obvious reasons, but the sort of rut that the Airplane are currently in saddens me greatly.
The Steve Miller Band, too, impressed me very much when they finally made it here, and Spirit, Love, Country Joe, and even Janis Joplin all managed to justify to some degree the publicity that preceded them. The most enigmatic band of all, however, the one and only Quicksilver Messenger Service, we of course never got a chance to see, and almost definitely never will. But the Grateful Dead…well they had a staggering aura and mystique about them. Their brief visit to the Hollywood Festival gave us a substantial appetiser, but now it was time for the real thing, the "acid test". To be quite honest, I was profoundly affected by everything I heard and saw. Not only did they surpass the enormous hopes I had of them, but they proceeded to set completely new standards of excellence right there before our very eyes, and to see and feel it happening was just bloody magic.
It was hard enough on that first night at Wembley coming to terms with the fact that there they were, less than fifty yards away, but by the time they were halfway into an unforgettable version of 'Uncle John's Band' on the last night I saw them at the Lyceum, I had this strange feeling that I'd known them all my life. Perhaps the most satisfying concert however was the previous night when I swear that very few bands could have possibly achieved in their entire careers what the Dead did in five hours. A list of the songs they played would be irrelevant, and anyway it's far too long, but every concert was structured and paced to include every conceivable musical form within their scope, and when it was all over it made me feel really good right down inside.
Furthermore, I was given irrevocable proof to support my theory that Phil Lesh is a genius beyond all shadow of a doubt. He was pushing out endless boulder-like notes that formed the base and cornerstone of the whole sound…beautiful imaginative riffs during tightly-arranged numbers, and when they stretched out, veering off the road to God knows where, it was pure counterpoint at its very best. I'll never forget one particular instance where the band had worked themselves into a piece that trained students of the game would probably describe as "electric chamber music", and Lesh was completely and utterly in control of the whole thing, crouched next to his amp and playing his bass high up on the neck gradually stabilising all the many different melodies and rhythms flying around him, and then leading them off somewhere else completely. Phil Lesh at the height of his creativity — that's not an experience you treat lightly. But there was so much more to marvel at and enjoy as well. Keith Godchaux, for one, his piano work adding yet another intricate layer to an already rich texture of sound, and it was a nice surprise, too, to see Bob Weir fronting the band, taking most of the lead vocals and leaving Jerry Garcia half-way in the background but with his guiding hand ever present.
. . . Every concert on the tour was recorded by Alembic Sound and the best performances were released on a triple album Europe '72 (3WX 2668) that came out here in December last year. Commercially it was a great success, becoming their second gold album, but critically it received very mixed reviews. A lot of so-called critics both here and in the States took to playing that stupid and vicious little game that most of them seem to take great delight in from time to time, i.e. build up a band's reputation to a peak with a series of condescending reviews and articles and then proceed to mercilessly slag them whenever the opportunity arrives.
(by Andy Childs, from ZigZag, December 1973)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com