Grateful Dead’s Europe ‘72 Tour 50th Anniversary: May 23 – London, England

Revisit the historic tour's 19th performance, recorded at the Lyceum Theatre.

By Andy Kahn May 23, 2022 10:48 am PDT

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 would end some 11 miles away from where it began back on April 7 in Wembley, England. The final four shows of the memorable run brought the band back to England for performances at London’s Lyceum Theatre that started on May 23.

A little over 2,000 people would see the band – guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, keyboardists Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Keith Godchaux, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux – each night at the Lyceum. While the group was wrapping what would become a historic tour, the venue they played had already established its own rich history.

Located along The Strand and Still in operation, the Lyceum’s origins date back to the 18th century. Regarding its past, the Lyceum’s website states:

There has been a theatre in the Covent Garden area called the Lyceum since 1765. The theatre has been used for a host of activities in the last 247 years and is one of the UK`s most prominent and important theatres.

The current Lyceum Theatre is an amalgamation of styles and eras. The “English Opera House” as the Lyceum was then known burnt down in 1830 and construction of the new ‘Theatre Royal Lyceum & English Opera House` began in 1834, the only part of the original building left is the main portico pillared entrance.

In 1878, Henry Irving took over as the Theatre Manager and appointed Mr. Bram Stoker as his Business Manager. Bram Stoker is famous for writing Dracula, which was written within the walls of the Lyceum during 1897 and Irving provided real life inspiration for the character.

In 1904, the theatre was re-built as it currently is by Bertie Crewe. The theatre played host to a range of melodramas until the Lyceum was bought by London City Council in 1939 who had plans to demolish the building along with the Aldwych, Novello, Vaudeville and Adelphi theatres to make way for road improvements. The theatre closed in 1939 with a landmark performance of Hamlet starring Sir John Gielgud in the title role.

Luckily, the road improvement plans collapsed and the theatre re-opened after the war as the “Lyceum Ballroom.” Over the years many big bands and stars performed on the Lyceum stage…

The Lyceum Theatre was Grade II listed in 1978 to prevent further demolition plans and from 1996 was given a new lease of life by the Apollo Leisure Group after a £15 million refurbishment.

Among the Dead’s contemporaries who performed at the Lyceum include The Who, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Queen and others. Bob Marley & The Wailers also recorded their 1975 Live! album at the Lyceum. In 1981, the venue was the site of Prince’s first performance in the United Kingdom.

Recent years have seen the Lyceum house large scale productions of plays such as Oklahoma! and Jesus Christ Superstar. Since 1999, the Lyceum has been the home to Disney`s The Lion King.

The Lyceum was the Grateful Dead’s home base for four nights in 1972 spanning Tues, May 23 to Friday, May 26. The four shows came after four days off, the longest such span of the tour, and a 1,032-kilometer trek northwest from Munich, West Germany to London. As noted before, earlier in the tour, Garcia told Rolling Stone reporter Jerry Hopkins (via Dead Sources), that he preferred fewer off days.

“Everywhere we’ve been, the audiences have been Grateful Dead audiences,” Garcia stated. “We’ve had the German equivalent of the guy who gets up on the stage and takes his clothes off. We’ve had the English freakout, the Danish freakout. But we haven’t been playing enough. I’m a music junkie and I have to play every day. The gigs are too far apart. It’s like we’re not fucking off enough to enjoy that or we’re not playing enough to enjoy that.”

Garcia’s former side band, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage – who also joined the Dead on the lineup of the Bickershaw Festiva held on May 7 in northern England – were on the bill for all four Lyceum shows. Shortly after the Lyceum run, the New Riders taped their own appearance for the German TV program Beat Club, which the Dead did back on April 21.

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The first set of the first Grateful Dead Lyceum show started with Weir leading a cover of Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land,” which would be repeated on nights three and four. Garcia’s “Sugaree” and Pigpen’s “Mr. Charlie” followed in the number two and three slots, respectively, as they did a total of six times in Europe. This version of “Mr. Charlie,” the tour’s 19th out of 22 performances, was chosen for the Europe ‘72 live album.

Counting “Mr. Charlie,” Pigpen sang lead five times on the first night at the Lyceum, all in the first set. He would play one more concert with the Dead upon their return to the United States. Pigpen gave solid efforts on “Next Time You See Me,” as well as his “Chinatown Shuffle” and “The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion).” The penultimate song of the set, “Good Lovin’” once again saw Garcia playing Pigpen’s organ, but lacked the latter’s signature improvised rap.

The first set saw the Grateful Dead’s first public performance of “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” The song originally recorded in 1957 by Huey “Piano” Smith was sung by Garcia and covered by the Dead again the next night, as well as two more times in 1972. The Jerry Garcia Band picked it up a few more times in 1975. Prior to the cover debut was the second of three Europe ‘72 performances of “Sitting On Top Of The World.”

As he often did during the tour, Weir introduced Donna prior to a 12-minute “Playing In the Band.” This instance elicited a response from Donna, who called out her bandmate’s penchant for using the same phrase.

“He always says ‘this here’s,’” Donna told the audience after Weir said, “This here’s Donna, she’s gonna help us out on this next one.”

At the end of the first set, Weir again spoke to the audience, telling them intermission was about to commence. He also gave a warning that the concert might run longer than advertised.

“I know your ticket reads from 7 [p.m.] til 12 [a.m.],” Weir said. “But I know you’ll forgive us if we go a little later tonight.”

The only “Ramble On Rose” second set opener of the tour followed the evening’s set break. Then came a continuous 40-minutes consumed by the second glorious pairing of “Dark Star” into “Morning Dew” in as many shows.

“He’s Gone,” which debuted on April 17, continued its development and made its 10th setlist of the tour. A lively “Sugar Magnolia” came ahead of the third version of “Comes A Time” played in Europe. Garcia then fired up “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” once again diving straight in without first leading in with “Not Fade Away.” They did segue from “GDTRFB” into “NFA,” which then surprisingly transitioned into “Hey Bo Diddley.”

The Dead had performed “Hey Bo Diddley” once before while backing Bo Diddley himself at the Hell’s Angels benefit held on March 25, 1972, at the Academy of Music in New York City (which was Donna’s first official show). “Hey Bo Diddley” was soundchecked on April 7 in nearby Wembley on the opening night of the Europe ‘72 Tour. The song was covered twice more by the Dead in 1972.

Garcia and Lesh also performed it that year on Thanksgiving with Doug Sahm, Leon Russell and others. Garica and Kreutzmann played it with The Allman Brothers Band on New Year’s Eve 1973. The song made one more Grateful Dead setlist, during the encore on February 11, 1986, with Art Neville on keyboards, Daryl Johnson on bass and Brian Stoltz on guitar.

The debut of “Hey Bo Diddley” naturally slid back into “Not Fade Away,” which closed out the second set. The tour’s lone standalone “Uncle John’s Band” encore was the final song played on the opening night of the Lyceum run.

Here are additional statistics and information regarding the 19th performance of the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 tour:

At-a-Glance

The Show

May 23, 1972

7 p.m.

£2

2,100

641

The Music

19 songs / 110 minutes

10 songs / 99 minutes

29 Songs / 209 minutes
18 originals / 11 covers / 2 tour debuts

Dark Star 29:54

Chinatown Shuffe 2:57

12:38

16 Jerry / 8 Bobby / 5 Pigpen

54


Setlist (via JerryBase)

Set One: Promised Land, Sugaree, Mr. Charlie [1], Black Throated Wind, Tennessee Jed, Next Time You See Me, Jack Straw, China Cat Sunflower [2] > I Know You Rider [2], Me And My Uncle, Chinatown Shuffle, Big Railroad Blues, Two Souls In Communion [2], Playing In The Band, Sitting On Top Of The World [2], Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu [3], Mexicali Blues, Good Lovin’ [4], Casey Jones

Set Two: Ramble On Rose, Dark Star > Drums > Dark Star > Morning Dew, He’s Gone, Sugar Magnolia, Comes A Time [2], Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away [2] > Hey Bo Diddley [2][3] > Not Fade Away [2]

Encore: Uncle John’s Band [2]

Notes:

  • [1] released on Europe ’72
  • [2] released on Steppin’ Out with the Grateful Dead: England ’72
  • [3] First known performance (by GD)
  • [4] Jerry plays organ

Below, stream the official recording of the Grateful Dead’s May 23, 1972 concert at the Lyceum Theatre in London, England, or check out other recordings via Archive.org:

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