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"We gave our final concert, The Band's final concert. We called it The Last Waltz."
October 8, 2007 4:49 PM   Subscribe

At San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving 1976, The Band served turkey dinners to an audience of 5,000 and played Don't Do It, Theme from The Last Waltz, Up on Cripple Creek, The Shape I'm In, Who Do You Love, It Makes No Difference, Such a Night, Helpless, Stage Fright, The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Dry Your Eyes, Coyote, Mystery Train, Mannish Boy, Further on up the Road, Evangeline, Ophelia, Caravan, Forever Young, Baby Let Me Follow You Down, and I Shall Be Released with a ton of guests (listed in link titles).

Martin Scorsese filmed the concert and backstage footage (1978 New York Times review; more info). Supposedly it's the first rock movie filmed in 35mm. (The songs are linked in the order they appeared in the 1978 movie.) "Evangeline" and "The Weight" were filmed later on sound stages. If you look closely, you can almost see the M&M-sized blob of cocaine in Neil Young's nostril that was rotoscoped out.

The band first played as The Band at the Winterland on April 17, 1969.

Unrelated: Engelbert Humperdinck's "Last Waltz"
posted by kirkaracha (46 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent post, kirkaracha. Many thanks.
posted by Poolio at 4:52 PM on October 8, 2007


Martin Scorsese didn't film it in 35mm so that you kids could watch it in crap-o-vision. Now put it in your Netflix queue and git off a ma lawn!
posted by 2sheets at 4:53 PM on October 8, 2007 [6 favorites]


I lived there then, and was a goddam clueless punk. :-(
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:57 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Mavis Staple's verse on "The Weight" always put a lump in my throat and Rick Danko's moves on "Coyote" remind me of a Muppet.
posted by sourwookie at 5:01 PM on October 8, 2007


You know who else put on a show of serving turkey dinners?
posted by Poolio at 5:06 PM on October 8, 2007


Big thanks, kirkaracha, from this here Band fan!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:06 PM on October 8, 2007


(But I do have to agree with what 2sheets said...)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:07 PM on October 8, 2007


The movie that makes getting hammered with some pals on a back porch somewhere into an attractive Thanksgiving proposition. For me, anyhow: and I like hanging out with my family.
posted by Kinbote at 5:17 PM on October 8, 2007


I've got this on DVD and really enjoy watching it from time to time. Nice post.
posted by nola at 5:39 PM on October 8, 2007


Mavis Staple's verse on "The Weight" always put a lump in my throat and Rick Danko's moves on "Coyote" remind me of a Muppet.

Danko's vocal turn on "The Weight" rocks, too. Best concert movie ever from the best band ever. I have the cassettes, the CD's, the DVD's and an actual concert poster.

(Guess I'm just a pushing-fifty fanboy. Thanks for the post.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:40 PM on October 8, 2007


"Martin Scorsese didn't film it in 35mm so that you kids could watch it in crap-o-vision."

Yes he did. That was precisely the reason he didn't film it in 70mm.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:01 PM on October 8, 2007


My mom gave me this movie for Christmas about 5 years ago and when I finally got around to watching it it was like a revelation: "Damn, music was awesome back then!"
posted by PhatLobley at 6:03 PM on October 8, 2007


Dr John's "Such a Night" is my favorite - a gem among gems.
posted by jonson at 6:03 PM on October 8, 2007


Best part: When Clapton's guitar falls off its strap near the beginning of Further On Up The Road.
posted by The World Famous at 6:06 PM on October 8, 2007


When my youngest was 14 years old, way back in 1990, he asked for music for Christmas. His wish list of cds included Steve Miller Band, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, early Dylan, CCR, The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, and The Band, among others.

I was a gratified, but curious parent, and asked him why he wanted all of these oldies.

His reply, spoken with hushed reverence:

"Mom, this is the music of my ancestors!"

(Thanks for this post. I have the video. I need to go watch it, reverently.
posted by Corky at 6:11 PM on October 8, 2007


More pussy than Frank Sinatra.
posted by Tube at 6:12 PM on October 8, 2007


I still love The Last Waltz, but I love it a bit less after having read Levon Helm's autobiography (and, I guess, Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls), in which he basically describes the whole thing as Robbie Robertson's failed attempt to break into the world of acting.
The 4-disc box set featuring a bunch of outtakes is pretty interesting, especially the tentative but ultimately soulful take on Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light.
posted by ghastlyfop at 6:24 PM on October 8, 2007


"Dr John's "Such a Night" is my favorite - a gem among gems."

I'm sorry, but this always sounds like something I'd hear in an Applebees commercial and therefore skip the living hell out of it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:25 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Coke boogers are so rock and roll.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:34 PM on October 8, 2007


Oh and "Stagefright" is my shiiizzz here.
Just too good. From the opening rave-up into the bucking waves of the verses.

Yup. That's muh shit right there.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:38 PM on October 8, 2007


"Dr John's "Such a Night" is my favorite - a gem among gems."

I'm sorry, but this always sounds like something I'd hear in an Applebees commercial and therefore skip the living hell out of it.


Well, I suppose if you don't do it, somebody else will.
posted by The World Famous at 6:38 PM on October 8, 2007


Thanks for including that Humperdinck link. I always liked that song.

(Oh, and the Band is good too. Carry on.)
posted by evilcolonel at 6:41 PM on October 8, 2007


This movie blew my mind wide open as a teenager. It made me want to become a weathered man of the worldlike they were (an ambition I've had numerous occasions to regret, but whatever) The Jack Ruby story and Robertson quoting Ronnie hawkins about Sinatra (and revealing the real reason why guys form bands) is worth the price of admission alone.
posted by jonmc at 6:49 PM on October 8, 2007


I'm sorry, but this always sounds like something I'd hear in an Applebees commercial and therefore skip the living hell out of it.

They have support groups for people with no taste. Would you like a number?
posted by jonmc at 6:49 PM on October 8, 2007


Probably the best The Band web site I've come across.

Its been said that "On the day Rick Danko was born, the angels sang. Rick sang harmony."

Nice post. This is a great movie. Neil Young is visibly fucked up, and Rick Danko doesn't look to happy about it.
Levon Helm despite a bout with throat cancer is still going strong, putting on the Midnight Rambles.
Rick Danko died in his sleep in 1999.
Richard Manuel died in a motel room in 1986.
posted by Sailormom at 6:59 PM on October 8, 2007


I love that moment at the beginning of "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down." They're finishing up "Forever Young" and Dylan decides he wants to do an unplanned reprisal of "Baby." You can see Danko and Robertson giving him this "what the hell are you doing?" look for a second before they catch on, grin, and jump into the song (memorably electrified on their 1966 tour) with both feet. Fucking sweet.
posted by EarBucket at 7:23 PM on October 8, 2007


stunningly great movie

dont really care about neil's coke blob.....though it is a funny story

what pisses me off most is the fact on Coyote either Danko's bass was completely shut out of the mix and he was stage acting .......his hands are waving all over doing stuff that doesnt come out in the audio....dont know how the hell you get on stage and try to outdo Jaco Pastorious in the first place....or he just sucked and they had to dub in a basic part after the fact

Coyote is like one of my favorite songs in the world bar none. Just hate to see it disrepected like that

I have the deluxe DVD, and I'm telling ya....If that aint about the primest Joni as far as performance and other admirable features....dont know what is
posted by timsteil at 7:23 PM on October 8, 2007


This is the only concert film I'd consider as good as Stop Making Sense. That I prefer Stop Making Sense is merely a personal preference.
posted by sparkletone at 7:24 PM on October 8, 2007


Best concert film ever. I discovered The Band in 1987, at the age of 16, many years after the original lineup had ceased to be.

I lived in small town Newfoundland, and the only album I could get at the crappy record stores was The Best of The Band,which I actually bought on a whim, since Robbie Robertson's solo album at the time had appealed to me. Anyway, despite my lack of access to earlier albums by The Band, Rolling Stone magazine would occasionally feed me nuggets of info about them, in the days before the internet would allow us to pique our curiosity.

I eventually discovered there was a movie called The Last Waltz, and I swear I phoned every video store within 20 miles, and found ONE store that had the movie. I attempted to take the bus to town to rent the video, but the bus passed me by (as there were no clearly marked bus stops in my area - this WAS Newfoundland in the 80s, folks).

My cousin Darrell and I proceeded to walk 15 miles to this video store to rent The Last Waltz (and luckily, we got a ride home from a relative).

I was not disappointed. Still, to this day, my favorite movie-watching experience ever, and I never cease getting chills watching parts of it.

Thanks for the post!
posted by newfers at 7:25 PM on October 8, 2007


"Richard Manuel died in a motel room in 1986."

Who didn't?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:25 PM on October 8, 2007


I am an unabashed and slightly unhinged fan of The Band. Thank you.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:26 PM on October 8, 2007


And I would not throw Robbie Robertson out of bed for eating crackers.
posted by tizzie at 7:31 PM on October 8, 2007


An absolute favorite of mine.
I knew Levon slightly, in Fayetteville AR in the early 60s- hung out at the Rockwood Club where they played as Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks.
Then they disappeared.... went Nawth, we heard, and next thing we knew there wuz Music from Big Pink, they wuz backin' Dylan, and the whole thing turned into a free-for-all.
Newfers, me too- I never cease getting chills watching parts of it.
posted by drhydro at 7:32 PM on October 8, 2007


And I would not throw Robbie Robertson out of bed for eating crackers.

Eh, Levon's the cool one.

And Danko. You look at Danko in this movie and he's this charming handsome guy, but I saw him on some PBS show in the early nineties and he was all bloated and sweaty and incoherent. It was a truly disheartening display of decline.
posted by jonmc at 7:38 PM on October 8, 2007


"Eh, Levon's the cool one."

This.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:42 PM on October 8, 2007


I'd also like to add that the groove on Up on Cripple Creek as it plays on the album is much less accelerated and - In my humble O- therefore less crunchy in the Last Waltz, but I submit that song as one of the great examples of what the critics call "Americana.*" That is to say a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll and all over FUNKY. Also the song contains yodeling. It's a staple with me.

The Band had this weird kind of moody enthusiasm, that I think is almost unmatched.




*The fact that they are allmost entirely nucks just makes it that much better. Cheers Canada.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:49 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Richard Manuel died in a motel room in 1986.

He hanged himself; all too typical rock'n'roll demons of booze and blow.

I saw the Band (less Robbie) from front row seats not a week before that, and Richard was uncharacteristically energetic and in super form for the whole show. I remember commenting on his performance on the way home. Sad end.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:00 PM on October 8, 2007


Rick Danko on the Festival Express(another fine piece of musical history).
posted by Sailormom at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2007


The Last Waltz is one of my favorites. In a different vein, but right up there there’s Live Rust.
posted by Huplescat at 8:30 PM on October 8, 2007


A great, great musical document, to be sure - I knew the record for about 15 years before I finally got around to seeing the movie (it had a small theatrical run in 2002), and Robbie Robertson almost killed it for me. I *hate* his guitar playing, and he just comes across as SO smug and self-congratulatory.

Nonetheless, the fact that Levon can sing as well as he does AND play the drums as well as he does... AT THE SAME TIME has to be one of the great treasures of American music.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:10 PM on October 8, 2007


his hands are waving all over doing stuff that doesnt come out in the audio..

I saw a tiny bit of that; I'm pretty sure he was ghosting. The rest scanned pretty fine to me, I felt no dissonance between what my ears and eyes were telling me.

/bass player
posted by Wolof at 11:34 PM on October 8, 2007


In 2002, on the day after Thanksgiving, this guy staged a tribute/re-enactment to The Last Waltz at a cool old theater using local musicians all playing the different artists and performing the music live. I was there and it was crazy fun!

As per the real event and it being Robertson's show, it's hard to avoid the fact that the guys were back on the road without him within a few years of supposedly retiring from the life. Levon is still on the road at 67!
posted by bonefish at 12:27 AM on October 9, 2007


I sit down and watch this classic movie at any given excuse, and here's another one! Thanks for the post.
posted by El Brendano at 6:49 AM on October 9, 2007


I remember the original review of the concert in Rolling Stone magazine. When Muddy Waters came onstage, they did Caldonia, which was just ok. And the reviewer wrote that his initial thoughts were "well, he's getting old, you can't expect him to breathe fire anymore" and then Mannish Boy kicked in. Turns out Muddy just needed a little warming up. That version just kills.
posted by Ber at 7:01 AM on October 9, 2007


Watching these clips makes it really clear why we so desperately needed punk rock in the mid 1970s.
posted by tew at 8:48 AM on October 9, 2007


Robbie? Feh. I have the same feelings towards Last Waltz-era Danko that most women have for Clive Owen.

As you were.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:23 PM on October 9, 2007


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