reCAP :: The Complete Last Waltz :: 2014.11.26
The night before Thanksgiving is the right time to see live music. It’s an American tradition as true as turkey, football, and pumpkin pie at your Uncle Ernie’s house. On this night before Turkey Day, The Capitol Theatre was the place to be. A wildly talented troupe of musicians gathered to play The Last Waltz in its entirety. At the original concert on Thanksgiving eve 1976, The Band bid farewell to life on the road with a spectacular concert that included appearances by Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Ronnie Hawkins, just to name a few. Martin Scorsese filmed the proceedings and turned it into one of the most iconic rock documentaries in existence. The music is timeless, and it was magically performed again four decades later at The Cap.
The show began in the balcony, stage left, as a five-piece ensemble played the “Theme from The Last Waltz.” Then Joe Russo did his best Levon Helm on “Up On Cripple Creek,” as the brass and horns guys re-emerged on a platform behind the band. There was a revolving door of guests, and the core band consisted of Russo, Sam Cohen, Scott Metzger, Dave Dreiwitz, Marco Benevento, Ryan Miller, and Jeff Chimenti (I’m sure I’m missing a few here). If you shut your eyes, you’d swear you were at a Band concert as they recreated the early part of The Last Waltz with classics such as, “The Shape I’m In,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” It was all there: The majesty of Garth’s sound, Robbie’s piercing licks, Levon’s authentic rhythm and earthy voice, and the Rick’s poignant, shaky vocal cadence.
A raucous rendition of “Who Do You Love” fired up the crowd. Then came the blues tunes, including thrilling renditions of “Mannish Boy” and “Further on Up the Road.” The crowd joined in on a Neil Young sing-along, “Helpless.” The young lady performing Joni Mitchell did an outstanding job, especially on “Coyote.” Before singing “Dry Your Eyes,” the Neil Diamond guy said, “This next song, undoubtedly, was the highlight of The Last Waltz.” Surely, he was jesting. The real highlight of The Last Waltz followed: Van Morrison’s whirling, fist pumping, leg kicking “Caravan.” It’s an impossible task to try and recreate Van’s tour de force performance, but the Van guy was solid, and the crowd went berserk during the “Turn it up, just one more time” finale.
After a short break, the crowd delighted in “Chest Fever” and “The Weight.” A tall Dylan guy came out and performed the entire “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” loop. His voice was efficient, but it lacked Dylan’s over emphatic, nasally howl that people either love or hate. However, it was moving to hear “Hazel,” “I Don’t Believe You” and “Forever Young.” Everybody and their mothers came on stage for the “I Shall Be Released” finale. But nobody left without boogieing to the encore, “Don’t Do It.” It was a wonderfully conceived performance of The Last Waltz—nostalgic and very much alive at the same time. I hope this concert becomes a pre Thanksgiving Day tradition at The Capitol Theatre. This really was The COMPLETE Last Waltz—all four hours of it. These were the glory days of American music, and this show made it come alive again.