reCAP :: the Complete Last Waltz :: 2016.11.23
Forty years after The Band bid farewell to life on the road with a sensational concert on Thanksgiving eve in the Winterland, a talented cast of musicians gathered in Port Chester to recreate The Last Waltz in its entirety. The show began as scheduled at eight, and with one brief break, the music raged well past the midnight hour. In addition to being one of the longest shows in Capitol Theatre history, it was one of the most crowded. The floor was packed with thankful and peaceful music fans. One might expect an older crowd at a gig like this, but the audience was diverse in age. The music of this concert transcends time, and its legacy continues to grow.
This was the fourth consecutive year that The Cap has hosted this The Last Waltz, and the core band featuring Joe Russo on drums, Dave Dreiwitz on bass, Marco Benevento on keyboards, and Scott Metzger on guitar, remained the same. Guitarist, Sam Cohen was the musical director again, and Jeff Chimenti, who seems to be part of every major gig these days, joined the core group on keyboards. An onslaught of classic Band tunes dominated the opening of the show. Russo’s group is best known for their inspiring Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin covers, and they handle The Band’s archive with that same passion, and loving attention to detail. As a talented gathering of mostly long-haired musicians in casual attire ripped through classics like “Up on Cripple Creek,” “Rag Mama Rag,” The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “It Makes No Difference,” the Capitol Theatre felt like the Winterland Ballroom, and 2016 felt like 1976 for a while. The early part of the show was like catching a concise Band show, and there were still three hours of music ahead of us.
An uplifting version of Dr. John’s “Such a Night” set the tone for the next star-studded phase of The Last Waltz. After an invigorating “This Wheel’s on Fire,” came one of the highlights of the original concert,” Mannish Boy.” But nobody can sing the blues like Muddy Waters. The revolving door of performers accurately captured the bluesy sting of Clapton’s performances, and the relaxed/ shaky vibe of Neil Young’s contributions. A wild romp through “Who Do You Love” exceeded expectations and fired-up the crowd.
The Neil Diamond impersonator appeared on stage and joked that his performance would be the highlight of this concert, just like it was forty years earlier. Joking aside, this guy sang a wonderful “Dry Your Eyes,” which really was one of the best received performances of the night. A tall cat with long blonde locks did an admirable job singing “Tura Lura Lura!” and “Caravan.” Covering Van the Man’s “Caravan” is a daunting task, being that it’s one of the all-time great live performances of the 20th century. The audience, and this reviewer, put that aside and reveled in the awe of what was being created.
After a brief intermission due to the late hour, out came the Dylan guy. He was impeccably dressed like Bob was that night in the Winterland—leather jacket, polka dot shirt, and white hat with a red feather. And this guy killed it! The Dylan suite included the rarely played “Hazel.” All the musicians flowed on to stage for a poignant rendition of “I Shall Be Released.” After some jamming and a few encores, the 40th anniversary celebration was history. I joined a delirious and weary group of departing fans who tried to catch some sleep before feasting on bird the following day. We had a lot to be thankful for.