reCAP :: The Midnight Ramble Band :: 2014.01.24
The Cap delighted us again with surprises! The rabid fan base in attendance bore witness to The Midnight Ramble Band as they passionately performed an array of classic tunes on Friday, January 24. The line-up of Larry Campbell, Byron Isaacs, Amy Helm, Erik Lawrence, Teresa Williams, Jim Weider, Steven Bernstein, Jay Collins, and Justin Guip was pleasantly augmented by a surprise sit-in by Little Feat's Bill Payne, who admirably filled in on keys for Brian Mitchell to share a bevy of sing-a-long mayhem.
Having gained prominence for years as Levon's band, The Midnight Ramble Band honed their chops performing a litany of impressive gigs at the Barn in Woodstock at the infamous "Midnight Ramble" shows. It proved magical when the band delivered their repertoire of classic takes outside of Ulster County and inside the historic and legendary Capitol Theatre.
The evening was brilliantly buoyed by the duo of songs by The Band that commenced the proceedings. Fan favorites "Life Is A Carnival" and "The Shape I'm In" inspired a frenetic start to an evening of shared music and love for Levon and all of those in attendance. A special bonus was the lead vocals provided by famed Little Feat keyboard player and sometime vocalist, Bill Payne, who added distinct flavor to The Band staples. "The Shape I'm In" was an early highlight complete with an intense guitar solo from bandleader and multi-instrumentalist, Campbell, and a full infusion of brass from the horn section while Amy Helm demonstrated her endless enthusiasm through heavy clapping and a fury of dance moves. The current line-up includes one member from the last incarnation of The Band and Amy is the daughter of Levon, so the band was ripe with relevance.
Other highlights included a raucous cover of Little Feat's "Oh Atlanta" that showcased a mesmerizing keys solo by Payne that supported his patented vocals. Mid-song, Payne turned it over to Campbell and a pin-point high-pitch solo by yelling, "Go Larry!" "Mystery Train" was a tour de force effort showing a band that knows each other's tendencies well, with flowing piano and guitar solos abound and the delivery of an impeccable jam and frenetic dance-a-thon. Payne's famous piano chords sparked a segue into Little Feat's biggest known tune "Dixie Chicken," and the crowd ate it all up.
The band's take on "All That You Dreamed" provided a special moment. Campbell and Payne's visual looks and incendiary call and response was worth the price of admission alone. Special shout-out to the dual background singing force. Williams is a pin-up type with the vocal prowess of a young Emmylou Harris while Helm exudes a sexy soulful persona with an energy that is contagious. Another rarity and treat to those in the know, including Grateful Dead fans always present at The Cap, was introduced by Campbell, "I'm proud to introduce the next song... ...that Bill Payne wrote with Robert Hunter called 'Bluegrass Pines.'" It was satisfying to see a Hunter-penned piece played live with the depth of sound and layers the horn section provided.
The night was a celebration of all of Levon's genius and others, not solely a celebration of The Band, by providing a solid mesh of varied material. And when it concluded, we know Levon was smiling wide somewhere, just like we all were basking in it all.
The Midnight Ramble Band
The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, New York
Life is a Carnival, Shape I'm In, Reasons, Chauffer, It's Too Late, Oh Atlanta, Good News, Runnin' Wild, Little Birds, P.O.D.F., Mystery Train, Bluegrass Pines, Caledonia Mission, Remedy, Atlantic City, Dixie Chicken, The Weight
Encore: Willin', Deep Elem Blues