Brockton, Massachusetts is a community apparently of strip malls located a little less than 30 miles south of Boston. The best thing about Brockton was we found a motel immediately on exiting the highway that turned out to be right down the road, in fact walking distance from Campanelli Stadium.
The scene outside at Brockton was a bit different. Brockton police on carts kept coming by asking people to clear the sidewalk when all they were doing was standing and talking. Considering the walkway was right at the stadium not on a street where people had to get by, it was unnecessary. Occasionally people in line would complain to a cop about people who got in line in front of them. Unlike Cooperstown, which is high up in the mountains and was quite chilly and Yale which is kind of near the Long Island Sound and also chilly, the weather was warm. This time we didn’t stake out a place in line, and ended up walking about two blocks to get at the back of a line to a second entrance. It made no difference at all in respect to getting near the stage. This time however, the vibe down in front was strange. People crowded in close a lot earlier and they weren’t pleasant about it. Combine this with the people who think they are the center of the universe, not aware at all that anyone else, let alone a few thousand people are around them.
Willie Nelson changed things around slightly by opening with “Living In The Promised Land,” and introducing his guitarist son said, “Now that’s homeland security.” During Nelson’s set, some sixties burn-out acid casualty tried who’d been standing maybe five rows of people back from the stage tried to weasel his way up front, led by someone who turned out to be a cop. A bunch of people complained to security. Finally the burn out caught one of the baseball caps Nelson was constantly throwing from the stage and vanished. No one was sure whether the cop was working undercover or just there.
During the wait for Dylan, the security force decided to remove someone who made the mistake of accidentally tripping over (or almost tripping over to be more accurate) the one person who decided to sit down on the ground and couldn’t be seen considering he was in a huge crowd. But this guy, who was there from when the doors open and was there with his son had done nothing wrong. The security guy just decided to focus on him and have him removed when there were other people being way more annoying.
Finally Dylan came on and rushed through “Rainy Day Women,” and then did a powerful “God Knows,” quite possibly the best version of this song I’ve seen in concert. Then it was a speedy “Tweedle Dum,” and you had the feeling both Dylan and the band wanted to get through this show as quickly as possible. “Forever Young,” led into a fast, somewhat snarling, “Things Have Changed” which went into “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” The best part of “Tonight,” was on the bridge when Dylan sang, “Is it really any wonder,” he answered himself with “I Don’t Know.” A super-fast “Highway 61” came next, and I had a feeling the one acoustic number would be something special and it was, a close to perfect rendition of “Po Boy” with both Larry and Stu on acoustics, and I realized it was the first show this year (and perhaps longer) where two acoustic guitars were used on a song.
“High Water” came next and I decided I’d had enough of being in the front. It just wasn’t fun and it seemed like a fight would break out any minute. So I made my way through the crowd to discover a precious commodity called air, and another one called room. The strange thing was the closer I got to the back of the stadium, the louder the sound was and it was extremely loud. There was a lot of room in the back, some people dancing, some people clumped in little groups, some people not paying attention at all.
It was then the second high point of the night happened, a truly beautiful “Saving Grace,” with Larry playing gorgeous pedal steel and Dylan really singing. For “Summer Days,” I decided to see what things were like from the grand stand. With Dylan off to the side, it was almost impossible to make him out, the huge stage looked almost deserted though the music blasted.
Again the encores began with “Tambourine Man,” but the rest of the show didn’t really matter. I left the show feeling what I’d felt when the tour was announced. Baseball stadiums are for baseball, not music. And unless you have a good pair of binoculars (a telescope would be more like it) if you want to see what’s going on. If you want to see the interplay between the musicians, you have to get near the front.