The origin of playing exotic location is said to have implanted on the Europe '72 trip, when the band visited Stonehenge. The band pontificated the vibes that they would get from the location and how that would play out through their music. Sights like Stonehenge, Easter Island and the pyramids all got mentioned as possible destinations.
After a person from the GD offices visited the pyramids, the idea got rekindled in 1977. In March of 1978, Phil Lesh flew to Egypt and met with heads of states to establish the availability of this idea. Shockingly the Egyptian ministers were receptive of the idea of the Dead playing at the base of the pyramids. His one request was that traditional Egyptian music be represented at the concert. The head of state is how Hamza el-Dim was introduced to the band and brought on stage.
This show is definintely different. Maybe it was the ora of the Sphinx that was domineering over the stage or maybe it was the off kilter time signature of "Ollin Arrageed" but this show had its problems. There is a rocking transition from "Ollin Arrangeed" into the fitting "Tell the folks back home this is the Promised Land calling and the poor boy on the line." Then the set ends with a jaunting "Miracle" and blazing "Stagger Lee." Jerry is vocally in fire for this one and finishes the set with a string of power chords.
The second set opens and seemingly ends "Jack Straw." It was a stirring version until they hit "Jack Straw from Wichita" line and the levels of half the band drops off leaving Garcia flapping in the wings. In the background you can faintly hear Bobby plow through the rest of the song as Jerry drops off completely. There is some salvation in the "Ship of Fools" and the unique sound of Keith's electric piano. The "Estimated/Eyes" is pretty lackluster. There is an element missing from this popular combo, which is Keith's keys. His out of tune piano is nonexistence in the mix and so this version muddies along. I wish that they kept it up so this version could be distinctive like Dylan's "Tom Thumbs." For the first time "Terrapin" gets tapped out of "Space." The band wouldn't do this again until 7/7/84. Jerry forgets some of the lyrics and there is a bit of that slow down then speed up pace to this one, though the peak is outstanding. The highlight of the set is the closer, "Sugar Mags." Bobby and Donna thrive in the trade offs of "Sunshine Daydream," and you can download this show HERE and HERE.
I: Ollin*, Promised, FOTD, Mama Tried, Big River, Loser, Miracle, Stagger Lee
II: Straw, Ship, Estimated, Eyes, Drums, Space, Terrapin, Sugar Mags
*With Hamza el-Dim