Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía

Saturday Night in San Francisco

Recorded in December, 1980, Friday Night in San Francisco was a genre-busting album of acoustic guitar, and a surprise best-seller. The following night’s gig at the Warfield Theater is here, resurrected from 16-track tapes, and it’s a joyous explosion from three masters of flamenco-fusion.

The soundscape is important; Di Meola is in the right speaker on an Ovation steel-string, McLaughlin in the middle on Ovation nylon, and the late de Lucía at left with his Conde Hermanos classical. “Splendido Sundance” kicks things off with a triple guitar fest of sparking rhythms, led by Al’s Latin melodies and tight ensemble work. The hot-potato soloing in the finale is as mind-blowing as it was 40 years ago.

For flamenco passion, cue up “El Pañuelo” to hear Paco in his natural element – it’s testament to his genius that he could play utterly complex arrangements with John and Al, yet couldn’t read music. Adapted from the Mahavishnu Orchestra anthem, “Meeting of the Spirits” is a McLaughlin tour-de-force of minor arpeggios, while Di Meola displays his blistering alternate picking. In all, Saturday Night is a solid sequel to the original hit, filled with jaw-dropping performances.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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