Today in Grateful Dead History: September 29, 1980 – Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

Dancing Skeletons

It’s our first foray into the waters of the Grateful Dead’s 1980 acoustic / electric performances, so a little history lesson is in order.  In September and October, 1980, the Grateful Dead played a series of shows that featured a first set of acoustic music followed by two electric sets.  In all, the band played 15 dates at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco between September 25th and October 14th, two shows at the Saenger Theater in New Orleans on October 18th and 19th and eight nights at Radio City Music Hall in New York City culminating in a live simulcast on closed circuit TV across the country on Halloween.  The San Francisco and New York shows were professionally recorded and released in 1981 as two live albums – the all-acoustic Reckoning and the all-electric Dead Set.  These performances mark the first time that the Dead played acoustic instruments on tour since 1970.

I really enjoy the shows from this run, but it’s hard to review them in relation to one another since the acoustic sets are made up of mostly the same well-played material each night and the electric sets, while more variable, also tend to blend together.  Today’s show is the fourth in the Warfield run and the band has had some time to work out some of the acoustic kinks.  Still, Bob manages to bungle a few lines in Cassidy, which is otherwise a pretty nice version.    Bird Song, which on some nights during this run gets really out there, is laid back here.  My favorite acoustic songs tonight are the ones that were actually written to be played acoustically from the get-go – things like Dark Hollow and Oh Babe It Ain’t No LieTo Lay Me Down is beautiful and the band really nails the harmonies.

Once we get to the electric sets, we pick up on the rock n’ roll energy in the theater, with booming versions of Brown Eyed Women and It’s All Over Now.  The band keeps this up all the way through to the end with the party songs Around and Around, Johnny B. Goode and U.S. Blues closing things out.  In between, we get a great spacey jam out of Terrapin Station that eventually bursts into a rollicking Truckin’ after a few detours in Drums and Space.

Since the band was recording these shows for potential release, they were apparently a lot more anal than usual about tapers, so in a lot of cases, all we have are “interesting” audience recordings of these performances.  If you play around with the EQ on this one, you’ll do just fine:

There is also a soundboard available for this show, but I think the AUD is better.  Compare here:


2 thoughts on “Today in Grateful Dead History: September 29, 1980 – Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

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