I’m a sucker for any band with four horns and a Hammond B3 organ. Even better when you add great musicians like Warren Haynes (The Allman Brothers Band), Don Was (multiple Grammy-winning producer and bass player), country star Jamey Johnson, and two Neville Brothers. And when they’re all gathered to recreate The Band’s legendary 1976 farewell concert, The Last Waltz, you’re in for a great show, which is what we got last night at the Stifel Theatre in St. Louis.
At the original Last Waltz, the guest stars included Bob Dylan, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, and Dr. John. This time, no one that notable took the stage, but it eventually filled with fifteen solid performers providing a raucous, rocking concert. They didn’t replicate all forty-eight elements of the original show (which included poetry and a reading from Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”), but did roll through more than two dozen songs, with Haynes and Johnson sharing lead vocals with Dave Malone (The Radiators) and those two Nevilles, Cyril and Ivan.
Also present was Bob Margolin, the only one who played at the 1976 Last Waltz, when he was a member of Muddy Waters’ band. The standout was Mark Mullins, trombonist for the The Levee Horns, whose solos earned big ovations. Meanwhile, Don Was upheld his reputation as one of the coolest men in music by standing towards the back, wearing his hat and sunglasses and a big grin, as he laid down the bottom over and over again.
A week ago, I asked a friend if he was going to this show, and he said no, he wasn’t interested in seeing a cover band do The Band. Too bad, because this was simply great — one of our musical highlights of the year. It’s the only time I’ve gotten to hear live versions of such Band classics as “The Weight,” “Up On Cripple Creek,” “Life Is A Carnival,” “Stage Fright,” “Ophelia,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
The tour’s final stop is in Chicago tonight, but if you missed it, perhaps you should watch Martin Scorsese’s documentary about the original Last Waltz, still considered among the greatest filmed concerts ever.