I think the beginning of Dylan's set in Rolling Thunder 1975 was perfect, with Masterpiece followed by It Ain't Me Babe. A very ambivalent statement about art and audience. As much as I like RTR versions of Tonight I'll be Staying Here with you, something gets lost.
Here's a little piece I wrote
The song [Masterpiece], beginning with its title, was an aesthetic statement quite different from the songs that Dylan had chosen to open with in 1974 with The Band: “Hero Blues” (“You need a different kind of man, babe, You need Napoleon Bonaparte”) and then “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I Go Mine,” two songs that give a nod to the audience and reclaim the singer’s autonomy from their expectations.
Yet, for the whole first leg of the Rolling Thunder, the song about the audience was not played late in the set. The songwas a reworked electric arrangement of “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” and it was a song that always deserved special attention, because it was while singing it that Dylan revealed his game of masks to the public. Unfortunately, the officially released Bootleg Series that documents the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue misses the powerful narrative that Dylan performed on stage, with an invitation to the audience to wait and see, because, “Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent, When I paint my masterpiece.” The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 (a collection of performances taken from different shows and, as such, not entirely representative of the structure of Dylan’s set, or of the relationship it had with other artists’ presentations) starts with an excellent version of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” (which was added to the setlist much later in the tour), a joyous performance that suggests complicity both with the occasional lover Dylan sings to and about and with the audience, to which the meaning of the song can be metaphorically extended. Indeed, a widely circulated bootleg makes this reference explicit: Get Ready! Tonight Bob Will Be Staying Here with You.
Just as “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” is an invitation to the audience, “It Ain’t Me Babe” is a declaration of autonomy, a song that Dylan has often chosen as a tender closer to his shows (especially during some phases of the Never Ending Tour). In the Rolling Thunder Revue, coupled with an aesthetic statement about art and creation like, “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” the song—and its performance, including Dylan’s display of his “self” on stage—works with the familiar themes of Dylan’s image and his relationship with the audience. It was not the first time “It Ain’t Me Babe” served that function. It was played during the electric tour with The Hawks in 1965, only to be abandoned after the American leg. But during the Rolling Thunder Revue, Dylan’s declaration of independence was even more accentuated. In Forest Hills 1965, the audience responded half-angrily to the refrain, the catchy “no, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,” a phrase that communicated distance and disengagement in both directions. During the Rolling Thunder, Dylan’s right to electrify the song was never called into question. There are no doubts that this arrangement and Dylan’s singing work—it was often a highlight of the show, as was the electronic version of “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” another song that would have been met with catcalls in 1965. Dylan’s dramatic abilities to inhabit the songs he sings are revealed in his performance of “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” when he occasionally stresses the word "you" in the line, “I’m not the one you want babe.” In a song that is constructed around the opposition between I/me and you, the monologue that Dylan addresses to his audience makes clear from the very beginning where he stands and where he’d like his audience to stand. Engaging as it is, effective and loose (especially in the first concerts, when the band has not yet jelled, and Dylan does the most work with his voice and phrasing), “It Ain’t Me Babe” reinforces Dylan’s declaration of autonomy. The audience stands outside the community Dylan wants to create, and the presentation of autonomy is more important than the invitation for the audience to take part in this community.