The Grateful Dead's European tour in 1972 is much beloved by Deadheads and music lovers alike. It is probably cause for celebration then that the band has just announced the entire tour, consisting of 22 shows in 16 cities, will be released in one giant limited edition 60 disk box set in September.
1972 saw the Grateful Dead in transition. With the release of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty the band found themselves moving away from the primal psychedelia of their early days and finding their songwriting roots in country rock. The hard-drinking bluesman Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was suffering from cirrhoses of the liver and while he made the tour his showmanship (a central aspect of the band's performances at this point) was certainly diminished a great deal (this in fact would be his last tour with the band and he sadly died later that year).
To supplement Pigpen on the keyboards Keith Godchaux entered the scene with all kinds of brilliant moves on the piano. His jazz chops greatly influenced the Dead's sound and created in them a new ability to swing. This was also the Dead's first big tour without two drummers (Mickey Hart having left the previous year due to his father running off with a load of the band's cash.) which gave the band even more ability to find new musical landscapes.
With a bucket full of new songs, the band's repertoire was bigger than ever and they took Europe with a storm. Often cited as the best tour of their career, Europe in '72 includes some of the best performances they ever did. With the high price tag ($450 for the set) one has to wonder how many Deadheads are willing to plop down their hard earned cash for music they likely already have. The Dead have already officially released four sets from this tour (Europe '72, Hundred Year Hall, Steppi'n Out with the Grateful Dead, and Rockin' the Rhein.) Plus soundboard copies of the entire tour have floated around bootleg trading circles for decades. All of this makes me wonder who would be willing to purchase this mammoth boxed set? Certainly not me.
But looking at comments on the announcement it seems there is quite a bit of interest. Presumably the remastering of all the shows has appeal, plus the big picture book that comes with it, but $450 is a lot of ask for even that. Given that this is a limited edition (only 7,200 copies will be produced) I can't help but also wonder if the excitement generated by this announcement won't also lead to some bad will amongst fans as when a show is officially released it is frowned upon to trade the bootlegs. Limiting the entire Europe '72 run to a few thousand people (who are willing to drop nearly half a grand on the set) seems like a immensely terrible idea. I guess I'd better grab the bootlegs now before it becomes illegal.