San Francisco 1980 comes from the Fox Warfield Theatre on November 12th, 1980, at the start of a twelve date residency which Dylan had at the venue, and the very first night in which he performed officially onstage with the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. Released on a raft of bootlegged recordings over the years, this double-disc album brings together the concert in its entirety.
Set-wise, San Francisco 1980 is a combination of Dylan’s early Christian era works (‘Gotta Serve Somebody’, ‘I Believe in You’, ‘Man Gave Names to all the Animals’ et al.) alongside his more “typical” fan favourites. In all honesty, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The key selling points of this album include Garcia’s contribution to the set (although he only plays on six of the nineteen numbers), and particularly his part on an unpredictable (and partially re-written) rendition of ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’. Besides these, the album’s offering of obscurities are not to be overlooked; ‘Mary Of The Wild Moor’, first discovered by Bob in the early 1960s at the New York home of Eve and Mac McKenzie but only debuted live on this 1980 tour; ‘Abraham, Martin And John’ also first debuted mere nights before; ‘Let’s Keep It Between Us’, fittingly the title for the late 80s American East Coast pressing of this Dylan/ Garcia performance, and ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Alter’, also featuring Garcia.
Unfortunately there are two distractions which taint these discoveries slightly; firstly, the quality of the sound board recording which frequently picks up the voices and screams of the concert goers, and secondly, and perhaps more frustratingly, the haphazard nature of the on-stage mix, which sees overly amped instrumentation, at times, almost completely drown out the vocals of Dylan.
Of course, these are the pitfalls of such ‘snapshot of time’ recordings and while this may not be the record to convert any non-believers to the word of Bob or the gospel of Garcia, there are certainly traces of the good stuff within these tracks.
Christopher James Sheridan
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