Dylan played Waterloo Village on September 10, 1988 in a tent. It was very strange. I can’t even remember if anyone opened. I remember parking somewhere along some weird road and hiking through woods in the dark to get there.
In 2000 things have changed somewhat. On the way there we got into a ten-mile traffic jam because of some hideous accident judging by what was left of the cars which happened in a furious rainstorm. Finally we got there parking down some one-way road in a clearing in the woods, only to find out we had to take a bus to the actual venue. This proved to be a major mistake. The bus-driver some woman who could should but not think, immediately told everyone that once on the bus we could not get off. Everyone asked, how long is the trip. Ten minutes maybe was the reply. The bus (a school bus) immediately got into a preposterous traffic backup. The driver had a radio connecting her to the other buses and someone somewhere down the road. The other drivers were letting people off. Not ours. Some people opened up the emergency door and jumped out. It got worse and worse. Someone begged to be let off and a 400-pound gorilla in a “Peace Keeper” t-shirt appeared and told him if he complained again, he’d make sure he didn’t get into the show. The person on the radio told the bus driver to go into the other lane where immediately she ran into oncoming traffic, and then she had to squeeze back into the lane, not easy to do with a school bus. Someone said, “Can we smoke?” The bus driver said, “Yes.” And several people started lighting up. Someone said, “This is illegal, you can’t smoke on a school bus. The driver said, “When it’s not being used for school you can.” Someone else said, “I have asthma.” “Put out the cigarettes,” the bus driver screamed. We passed a big lot. Someone said, “Pull in there and turn around.” The bus driver refused. Someone else said, “I’m working for the opening band,” I’m supposed to be there right now. The gorilla appeared again. Ten minutes took 35 and finally we got to this big, not quite muddy field under threatening skies.
Dylan’s band took the stage at exactly 7:15. Tony Garnier appeared to be smoking a cigar. Bob appeared looking like he just woke up and they went into another fine version of “Duncan and Brady,” after which Bob, flashing a big smile said, “Thank you everybody in the great state of New Jersey,” and played a very moving and strong, “Song To Woody.” “Desolation Row” again took the number three spot, but did not quite have the push of the previous shows, though Bob (perhaps considering the skies) emphasized “or else EXPECTING RA-IN. Larry took the fiddle for a good version of “My Back Pages,” with Bob mixing up the words: “My confusion led by confusion boats,” and then picked up the harp for an excellent solo.
The harp appeared again on “Tangled” (two harp songs in a row for those who keep track of such things) and this time Dylan held onto his guitar with one hand, holding the harp with the other almost getting down on his knees.
It was back to “Country Pie” for the electric opener with both guitarists in excellent form, but we quickly realized we could barely hear Charlie Sexton. We were on Larry’s side of the stage and for whatever reason Dylan’s soundmen emphasize Larry on his side of the stage and Charlie on his side. The effect was like listening to a stereo album through one speaker. A concert is not a stereo album. A lead guitarist should be coming full force out of both speakers.
Larry took the bouzouki for “Blind Willie McTell,” with Dylan singing clearly, almost pausing before each line, taking a bit of care in getting it right. “Tombstone Blues” was next, but would’ve been a lot better if I could’ve heard what Sexton was playing. “I Don’t Believe You” followed. It was okay, but I’ve never been particularly entranced by the beat Dylan chooses for this song these days, or for the past 28 years actually. There are two electric versions of this song I love. They happened ten years apart a long time ago. They pretty much defined how this song should be done and nothing since has come close.
I was really hoping for “Wicked Messenger,” but the rearranged “Cold Iron Bounds” came next, followed by the now inevitable “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.”
The high point of the encores was a quite lovely “One Too Many Mornings” with Larry on pedal steel playing a long introduction that left and Kevin Reilly and I trying to figure out what it was going to turn into.
Overall, it was a very good show. Dylan was absolutely on, and pretty much appeared to be having a good time. But it did not come near the peaks of the previous night in Maryland.
I drove home in an on again off again rain, got three blocks from my house, stopped to pickup a late night snack, and the only thing that worked in my car was the alarm which refused to stop working. Fun. Back to real life.