May 8, 2009
The Last Waltz
I woke up thinking about The Band, and the first song that I heard on the radio this morning was by The Band, portents leading me to write about them today.
“He who shall remain nameless”, my husband, came home last Friday with a bag of goodies from HMV including the DVD of The Last Waltz.
Four Canadian boys and a rascal from Arkansas seemed to define Country Rock and Americana during the late 60s, early 70s with songs like The Weight, Up on Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.
Thanksgiving 1976 was The Band’s last concert and director Martin Scorsese turned it into one of the best concert films ever made.
It’s a smooth, seamless concert. Very enjoyable to watch.
You can be driven to distraction by the maddeningly handsome Robbie Robertson. Rick Danko’s voice makes you want to cry. Levon Helm’s got a bit of a Yosemite Sam thing going on, but I forgive him because he can drum and sing lead vocals at the same time.
Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson’s mammas obviously never told them girls don’t like big, aging beards.
Their stellar guests included: (click on the names, most of them are linked)
Neil Young, looking like most of my brother's highschool friends waxing lyrical and giving a shout out to North Ontario, where I was born, in Helpless.
A clear-eyed Dylan is there doing his Jesus impersonation.
The tiny perfect Van Morrison, with his lace-up pants. I wish I had his magic mirror.
Joni Mitchell, I’m not a fan, be quiet for a minute and let Neil sing.
Dr. John having a lot of fun it seems.
The reptilian Neil Diamond.
Ringo and Ronnie Wood were there too, our representatives from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Eric Clapton, after reading some of his autobiography, I now know you can be a genius guitar player and not very smart.
Muddy Waters sings Mannish Boy with a great deal of energy
And The Band’s former boss, Ronnie Hawkins, gets everbody riled up with “Who Do You Love”. Emmy Lou Harris and Paul Butterfield are also in attendance.
The actual concert was about 4 hours long. Scorcese has given us 1.5. If it weren’t for the occasional howler from Robertson, overly corny comments he makes about life on the road, I’m sure I could have sat through the whole 4.
My favourite song The Band performs is The Night They Drove old Dixie Down. The lyrics, written by Toronto native Robbie Robertson, tell of the last days of the American Civil War. Virgil Caine is a Confederate who served on the Danville train, a main supply line into the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Robert E. Lee’s army was holding the line of defense at the Seige of Petersburg. Union General George Stoneman’s cavalry “tore up the tracks” blocking the passage of food and supplies. The siege lasted from June 1864 to April 1865, when both Petersburg and Richmond fell, and Lee's troops were starving at the end. (thanks Wiki)
As a kid this song seemed so authentic it seemed impossible to me that this wasn’t a traditional song. I bet Ken Burns would’ve liked to have it for his Civil War, along with Ashokan Farewell. Levon takes the lead, making the plight seem all the more urgent. Here’s a clip from Youtube.
pictures from The Band's website : http://theband.hiof.no/