Live: Fall 1980
Blowin' In The Wind - Live - San Francisco - November 13, 1980
A Couple More Years - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
What Can I Do For You? - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
Precious Angel - Live - San Francisco - November 12, 1980
Slow Train - Live - Seattle - November 29, 1980
We Just Disagree - Live - Portland - December 4, 1980
Fever - Live - Seattle - November 30, 1980
To Ramona - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1980
Senor - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
Mary From The Wild Moor - Live - San Francisco - November 15, 1980
Let's Keep It Between Us - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
Monologue: The Same Man - Live - San Francisco - November 12
Rise Again - Live - Seattle - November 29
The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1980
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody - Live - Seattle - November 29
In The Garden - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
City Of Gold - Live - San Francisco - November 13, 1980
Intro & False Start to Slow Train - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
Intro to Fever - Live - San Francisco - November 22
After touring with an all-gospel revue in 1979 and early 1980, Bob Dylan made the surprising decision to reintegrate some of his classic songs with his newer bible-influenced repertoire while touring the US West Coast. At the same time, he pulled in a number of cover songs ranging from traditional Scottish ballads ("Mary From The Wild Moor") to recent radio hits (Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree") and contemporary Christian songs (Dallas Holm's "Rise Again").
It is not clear what moved Dylan to alter his earlier goal of playing explicitly religious material to fans night after night, regardless of the reception. As he and his band rehearsed in Los Angeles' Rundown Studio during September 1980, the change was apparent. The earliest focus from the rehearsal sessions was on newly written content, including "Caribbean Wind," "Every Grain of Sand" and "Yonder Comes Sin." Then after tossing off a handful of attempts at songs played on previous tours, Dylan then led his crew into numerous country and pop covers. Several of these would work their way into the following shows, but most remain unheard. One rare gem unearthed from these sessions by 2017's excellent Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More is an acoustic rendition of "Rise Again"; it's fascinating to hear just how much the song had changed between the studio and the stage in November.
For an extended residency at San Francisco's Warfield Theater from November 9 to November 22, Bob Dylan would pull out all the stops on his setlist. It varied little from night to night, but the breadth of material performed was enormous. Most shows opened with the same two songs that had introduced his concerts since the preceding year - "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "I Believe In You" (neither present on Rise Again) - before he launched into an electrified gospel arrangement of "Like A Rolling Stone." The latter is omitted from this set since it would be dramatically enhanced the following year.
With these introductory songs played, along with a nightly one-song performance by Regina McCrary, the setlist then began to open up to an intriguing combination of old and new material. "To Ramona" and "Girl From The North Country" appeared often, the former in a toned-down version of its 1978 arrangement and the latter in an all-new elegant semi-acoustic guise; Jerry Garcia, only one of numerous guests throughout the tour, plays guitar on the November 16 performance of "To Ramona" included on Rise Again. Though some of his recent gospel songs had lost a bit of their luster during the summer touring hiatus, tracks like "Slow Train" and "In The Garden" seemed to have somehow gained even more strength.
One of the most impressive elements of the Fall 1980 shows, though, was the emphasis on new compositions which, in many cases, failed to make it onto any albums. We know now that these were being worked up during the September 1980 studio sessions, perhaps in anticipation of a forthcoming album, but at the time they must have been quite surprising to audiences. "Let's Keep It Between Us," "Caribbean Wind," "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar," "City Of Gold" and a newly re-written "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody" are extraordinary compositions, and we are lucky to have so many of them performed and recorded in marvelous condition at these shows. Only "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" would make it onto 1981's Heart of Mine single as a b-side, and even that song had been heavily re-written between its November 1980 live appearance and the recording studio. Some of the others were recorded in the studio to less success, like "Let's Keep It Between Us" and "Caribbean Wind," or seem not to have ever been attempted in a studio session, like "City Of Gold." Whatever the case, they are excellent concert performance pieces and I'm sure you'll enjoy them here.
While "Caribbean Wind" has been omitted from Rise Again due to an official release on The Bootleg Series Volume 13, I felt compelled to include its introduction. No direct mention is made of the song, and a problem with the soundboard recording kept it from being published on said official release. It's an illuminating meditation on Dylan's own philosophy regarding his mercurial performance philosophy, as he muses about Leadbelly recording prison songs, then children's songs, all while remaining the same man; Leadbelly's audiences, of course, had been polarized about which version of him they preferred. This discomfort with audience expectations would go on to be explored more bitterly during the following year's European tour, as Dylan would openly speculate from the stage that audiences should enjoy the new songs now since, if he came back, he'd eventually just be playing the old hits that everyone wanted to hear.
I've also included a lengthy introduction to Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell's "Fever," which had been a hit in the '50s when recorded by Little Willie John and then Peggy Lee. Though the timeline doesn't quite sync up, Bob Dylan recalls his first time coming face to face with R&B in a Detroit bingo parlor as a young man. Having formerly listened primarily to country music, this seems to have been a formative experience in pushing the young Minnesotan out of his element and into a relationship with other musical genres. This is one of my favorite on-stage speeches by the singer, so I'm happy to include it alongside the great songs on Rise Again.
Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.