We arrived at the stadium about an hour before the doors opened. The circus atmosphere of Cooperstown was replaced by a more mellow crowd lounging around in line. Once again, it was pretty easy to get right up front. Hot Club of Cowtown did a similar set to the night before and everything seemed a bit looser. Willie Nelson came on a tiny bit later and did virtually the same set, except he played about 15 minutes longer, adding a couple of Hank Williams songs as well as “Living In The Promised Land.”
The scene at the front can be fun and interesting. You notice the same people in the same spots at “the rail” – both Nelson and Dylan fans. But it can also be intense and claustrophobic, especially the closer it gets to Dylan taking the stage.
Dylan came on at about 8:50 and opened with “Maggie’s Farm,” rocking very hard and continued rocking with “Watching the River Flow” and “Tell Me That It Isn’t True,” which had more punch than usual, and a cool harp solo though he did mess up some of the lyrics. Hardly pausing between songs, he took things higher with “Sad and Lonesome Day,” then slowing down for an excellent “Just Like A Woman,” still in it’s Memphis soul arrangement at the beginning. “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee” kicked things back into motion and even though this song appears at every show (or so it seems) both Dylan and the band put something extra into it that made you notice.
An incredible version of “Love Sick” led into “Highway 61 Revisited,” and it was obvious both Dylan and the band were having a lot of fun – the guitars soared. Larry switched to cittern and an ominous chord followed, and for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t sure what was coming next. The ominous chord turned into a stunning “Hollis Brown,” with Dylan nailing the vocal, never missing a step, not only enunciating every word, but every syllable. It was the high point of the night, and not even the security force dealing with a drunk who was apparently falling into everyone around him could detract from it.
“Honest With Me,” led into “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” and while when I first heard the new arrangement, I felt that it was a new arrangement simply for the sake of a new arrangement, at Yale it not only built and built, but made total sense.
On “Summer Days,” they were obviously again having fun, with Stu throwing in a Count Basie riff that made Dylan crack up. “Tambourine Man,” replaced the previous night’s “Don’t Think Twice” as usual followed by “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Watchtower.”
It was simply one of those nights where everything worked and the energy never let up, the band totally on, and Dylan singing so forcefully that you had no doubt why you came to see him.