Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Last Waltz

Richard, Levon, Rick, Garth, Robbie

The Band played their first gig as The Band in 1969 at the Winterland in San Francisco and that is where they (or at least Robbie) chose to play their final concert and have it filmed as The Last Waltz by Martin Scorsese.  On November 25, 1976 the audience of 5000 were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner before the show.  And what a show.

I saw The Last Waltz when I was 13 in the mid '80s at a university theatre with my dad.  We got there early and there were only two old women in line ahead of us.   They assumed because of the title that it was a film about classical music.  My dad told them it was The Band's concert but they had no idea.  He went on to mention some of the other performers in the film:  Neil Young?  Ronnie Hawkins?  Joni Mitchell? were met with blank stares.  Dylan. You know Bob Dylan?  Nope.  He glanced at me like hey they sure are in for something.

I'm glad my first experience of this film was on the big screen surrounded by a passionate audience.  There are so many classic performances.  And the interviews:  Garth telling how he had to convince his parents he was actually giving music lessons so they would accept he was in the band, Richard describing how they couldn't afford food so had to go into the grocery store and come out with baloney stuffed in their coats, a bittersweet moment with Rick musing how he'll just have to keep busy now.

Here's the trailer to give you a taste.  And like it reminds you at the beginning of the film, Play it Loud.

Just an interesting note:  Last month, 34 years after The Last Waltz, The Levon Helm Band was one of the headliners at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

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