Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Band & Guests - The Last Waltz: The Full Concert


Recorded live at Winterland, San Francisco on 25 November 1976

This was The Band’s farewell concert, from 1976, from Winterland, San Francisco. It included several guest performers, these are all shown on the track listing of the original concert shown here.
It is a wonderful show from beginning to end, with top quality sound and stunning performances from The Band and their guests. It is seventies, full-powered Americana rock music of the highest order.

You get most of The Band’s famous songs - The Weight, Up On Cripple Creek, Rag Mama Rag, Stage Fright and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - all played with a verve and vitality that takes your breath away. A great, lesser-known song is the saxophone-enhanced It Makes No Difference.

Muddy Waters sings some top notch blues - the romp that is Caldonia and the iconic Mannish Boy. Paul Butterfield gives us more blues on the punchy Mystery Train and Eric Clapton rocks on Further On Up The Road. Van Morrison has a great shot at stealing the show with Caravan while the concluding performances with Bob Dylan are as good as you would expect them to be. It is good to hear Hazel get a rare airing . It was good to hear the group’s original employer, Ronnie Hawkins, joining them for the rocking Who Do You Love. Then there is Neil Young, with his atmospheric, plaintive CSNY song, Helpless. The quality goes on and on. Joni Mitchell is quirkily appealing, bringing a different kind of atmosphere with her laid-back sound and witty, observational lyrics.

A slightly odd appearance was made by Neil Diamond, who sung Dry Your Eyes, which was co-written with The Band’s Robbie Robertson. He performs it well, nailing it, but, as an artist, his presence seemed a bit incongruous with the others there. It certainly was thought as such at the time. Diamond was seen as "uncool". I don’t mind, though, as I like him anyway. He deserves more respect than he ever gets/got. That is exactly what Robertson gave him.

He said, in retrospect, of the inclusion of Diamond at his request -

"The Tin Pan Alley songwriters in New York crafted brilliant songs for people to record, but they weren't performers," Robertson said in the The Last Waltz liner notes. "Neil Diamond bridged that world. When I worked with him on his record, people said, 'Is this a put-on?' No, it wasn't. This guy is really good at what he does and comes from this tradition of songwriting. He wanted to be one of those people - Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Carole King, Gerry Goffin. I thought what he does is as good as anybody who played The Last Waltz."

Back to the overall album. You can pretty much say that every song is excellent. There really isn’t anything sub-standard on here. Check out something like Ophelia, for example - the organ, drums, guitar, horns, everything in perfect sync. Or try the riffy, brassy rock of The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show. They were a truly excellent group and, although the cognoscenti have always adored them, widespread acclaim has often eluded them. For a few years in the seventies, they were one of the best bands around.

FULL CONCERT SET LIST (guest artists shown in brackets)

1. Theme From The Last Waltz
2. Up On Cripple Creek
3. The Shape I’m In
4. It Makes No Difference
5. Who Do You Love (Ronnie Hawkins)
6. Life Is A Carnival
7. Such A Night (Dr. John)
8. The Weight
9. Down South In New Orleans (Bobby Charles)
10. This Wheel’s On Fire
11. Mystery Train (Paul Butterfield)
12. Caldonia (Muddy Waters)
13. Mannish Boy (Muddy Waters)
14. Stage Fright
15. Rag Mama Rag
16. All Our Past Times (Eric Clapton)
17. Further On Up The Road (Eric Clapton)
18. Ophelia
19. Helpless (Neil Young)
20. Four Strong Winds (Neil Young)
21. Coyote (Joni Mitchell)
22. Shadows And Light (Joni Mitchell)
23. Furry Sings The Blues (Joni Mitchell)
24. Acadian Driftwood (Joni Mitchell)
25. Dry Your Eyes (Neil Diamond)
26. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show
27. Tura Lura Lura (Van Morrison)
28. Caravan (Van Morrison)
29. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
30. The Genetic Method/Chest Fever
31. Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Bob Dylan)
32. Hazel (Bob Dylan)
33. I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (Bob Dylan)
34. Forever Young (Bob Dylan)
35. I Shall Be Released (ensemble)