I had forgotten this was a Halloween show. There must’ve been people there in costumes, but I don’t remember it.
I do remember a certain electricity about this show. As a colleague of mine from the East Coast delights in pointing out, Minnesotans are pathologically possessive about famous natives, so Dylan’s ambivalence to the state he grew up in had long felt like an insult. But all was forgiven when he put St. Paul on the Street Legal tour schedule. ‘Will he acknowledge us from the stage?’ we wondered, ‘Maybe even apologize for ignoring us for so long?’
Ultimately, Dylan said very little from the stage. He certainly didn’t profess love for the Land of 10,000 Lakes; I don’t recall him even acknowledging his whereabouts.
But he did put on a decent, if challenging show. If the track list here is correct, he opened with My Back Pages, certainly not one of the most well-known works in the Dylan catalog. He’d eventually get around to his more popular songs, but it became instantly clear we weren’t in for a greatest hits revue. Every song got a reworking, sometimes pushing them beyond the point of recognition. It didn’t help that the sound in the Civic Center wasn’t very good (and let’s face it, “good sound” isn’t a description you could apply to many arena shows in the 1970s). I distinctly remember a feeling of satisfaction when I identified All Along the Watchtower early in the song.
In the end, the locals did get something special – one of the very, very few unplanned encores I’ve ever experienced in concert. After Dylan’s last song the lights came on, but the crowd wouldn’t leave. I don’t remember if I read it before or after the show, but Dylan wasn’t doing encores on this tour. On this night he did. The track list indicates it was I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight. Might’ve been, I’m not sure. But it did make it a special show.
(WIHAN stands for “When I Had a Nightlife,” an occasional feature described in this post.)