Today in Grateful Dead History: January 13, 1980 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

Dancing Skeletons

The Dead performed this short, one-set outing as part of a Cambodian refugee benefit that also featured Joan Baez, Jefferson Starship, Carlos Santana and the Beach Boys.  Since this show was a fundraiser, we’re not treated to the standard lengthy improvisations and the songs tend towards the upbeat and rockin’.

The 12 minute Franklin’s Tower should be considered a highlight of the night, with some delightful solos from Jerry and impassioned stomping from the rest of the band.  The Dead do as much as they can with the short Playin’ in the Band, but again, no one is really setting the controls for the heart of the sun here.

Not Fade Away is interesting, with both Carlos Santana and John Cippolina sitting in.  At certain points, you have to listen very intently to pick up who is who in the mix, and the solo that sounds like it’s coming from Santana is incredibly faint, but there are some really cool licks here, with Billy and Mickey thumping away on that back beat like nobody’s business.  After Sugar Magnolia and U.S. Blues, all of the performers come out for a Joan Baez-centric sing along of Land of a Thousand Dances and Amazing Grace.  If Joan Baez = bad for you, then you’re going to want to cut things off after U.S. Blues.

This was the Dead’s first performances of the 80’s, and they wouldn’t go out on a proper tour for a couple of months, so it’s hard to make any statements about broad musical trends from this show.  It’s just a well-played rock n’ roll runaround that isn’t going to blow any minds.

Listen to the soundboard, with some drops and hisses, here:


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