The Grateful Dead thrive in a venue they never intended to play

A hefty Record Store Day hefty document from the Grateful Dead’s Europe ‘72 tour

Grateful Dead: Wembley Empire Pool 4/7/1972 cover art
(Image: © Rhino)

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Wembley Arena is one of the most appalling venues in London, but when it was called the Empire Pool it had a tad more charm. The Grateful Dead never intended to play there; they’d been booked in for four nights at the Rainbow Theatre in London, but that closed.

This Record Store Day release isn’t exactly new, even if the format is, as it’s already available in previous box sets, although this latest version will become the collector’s choice as a companion to the next night’s concert – a Record Store release from last April.

The Empire Pool set includes tried and trusted crowd pleasers like Me And My Uncle, China Cat Sunflower and Sugar Magnolia, along with freshly minted songs from Jerry Garcia and Bob ‘Ace’ Weir’s solo debuts, still band recordings to all intents and purposes. 

The Dead were in great shape in ’72, and excelled on Black-Throated Wind, Sugaree, and a take on Playing In The Band that zipped through several movements before crunching to a tumultuous halt. Other standouts are a mazy Truckin and an all-guns-blazing Not Fade Away, before they made their exit to One More Saturday Night.

Max Bell worked for the NME during the golden 70s era before running up and down London’s Fleet Street for The Times and all the other hot-metal dailies. A long stint at the Standard and mags like The Face and GQ kept him honest. Later, Record Collector and Classic Rock called.