I attended a show by Bob Dylan at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco on November 1, 1979.
Dylan had just released Slow Train Coming so I figured we were in for his new gospel songs.
The show was a disaster. I’d seen Dylan with The Band five years earlier at the Oakland Coliseum and that was really something.
For this show, Dylan had the wrong band and I was shocked at the mediocre performance. (The next night, Nov. 2, 1979, was recorded and you can hear the entire set below, and it sounds much better than what I remember of the show I attended.)
But then, at the end, with many already gone from the theater, Dylan returned, took a seat at the piano, and played a beautiful song I’d not heard before, “Pressing On.”
The solo performance of “Pressing On” that night was spectacular.
The song ended up on Saved, but that recording doesn’t touch what I heard live.
Here is a better version from a show in Toronto at Massey Hall, April 20, 1980:
And here’s a performance of “To Ramona” with Jerry Garcia on guitar. This is from Dylan’s return engagement at the Warfield. For those 1980 shows he was once again singing some of the songs that made him famous.
Here’s the entire November 2, 1979 show at the Warfield:
Gotta Serve Somebody
I Believe In You
When You Gonna Wake Up
When He Returns
Man Gave Names To All The Animals
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)….
What Can I Do For You?
In The Garden
Blessed Be The Name
Bob Dylan with Jerry Garcia, November 16, 1980, Warfield Theater, San Francisco:
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Here’s the complete show at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, July 12, 1987, with Dylan and the Grateful Dead performing together.
Starts with a set by the Dead, then Dylan joins them one hour and forty-four minutes into the video. The show runs over three hours.
Dylan and the Dead play these songs:
Slow Train Comin’
Stuck Inside of Mobile
Tomorrow is a Long Time
Ballad of a Thin Man
Queen Jane Approximately
Chimes of Freedom
All Along the Watchtower
Times They Are A-Changin’
Touch of Grey
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
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On February 6, 1989, 25 years ago, the album Dylan and the Dead was released.
Rock critics hated the album.
Rolling Stone: [The record] “makes you wonder what the fuss [over the tour] was about…”
The Village Voice, Robert Christgau: [What Dylan] “makes of his catalogue here is exactly what he’s been making of it for years—money.”
Amazon.com, Steve Appleford: “If these were the stadium tour’s best performances, pity anyone who actually sat through one of these concerts with a clear head.”
Listening to the album now, I think it sounds pretty good. No, it’s not among Dylan’s best, but the combo of Dylan and the Dead is a good one. Garcia’s guitar work is, often enough, the perfect compliment to Dylan’s songs, and the Dead’s harmony vocals are just right.
“Queen Jane Approximately” is a standout with outstanding guitar playing from Garcia, a strong performance from the whole band and strong vocals from Dylan.
“Knocking On Heaven’s Door” is a solid performance — it’s great to hear how the Dead handle backing Dylan.
Also quite strong is “All Along the Watchtower.” And, really, “Slow Train” and “Gotta Serve Somebody” aren’t bad either.
The only track I could really do without is “Joey.”
Of course a much better album could have been pulled together if other songs from the tour had been included, as well as some of the songs Dylan and the Dead rehearsed at Club Front in San Rafael, June 1, 1987, before the tour began.
What’s so weird is that there are times during the rehearsals when Dylan’s voice sounds fantastic — like he was more into just jamming on songs with the Dead than when they were actually out on the road.
Here are some performance from the tour and the rehearsals that I like.
“Queen Jane Approximately”:
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Eugene, July 19, 1987:
“The Wicked Messenger,” East Rutherford, July 12, 1987:
“The French Girl,” rehearsal:
“When I Paint My Masterpiece,” rehearsal:
“Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” rehearsal with the Dead, 1987:
“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” Eugene, July 19, 1987:
“Pledging My Time,’ rehearsal:
“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” rehearsal:
Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia (vocals), “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), first take, rehearsal:
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