Thanksgiving, 1976, San Francisco's Winterland: the Band performs its last concert after 16 years on the road. Some numbers they do alone, some songs include guest artists from Ronnie Hawkins (their first boss, when they were the Hawks) to Bob Dylan (their last, when as his backup and as a solo group, they came into their own). Scorsese's camera explores the interactions onstage in the making of music. Offstage, he interviews the Band's five members, focusing on the nature of life on the road. The friendships, the harmonies, the hijinks, and the wear and tear add up to a last waltz. —<email@example.com>
Take a load off, Annie.
Either I'm getting older or the world's getting younger, but when a rock concert documentary film airs on TCM, there should be some sort of pause for a reality check. In a salute to WALTZ'S director Martin Scorsese, the film aired on TCM over the New Year's weekend. I hadn't seen it or thought about it in 25 years. And all I can say is that it hasn't lost any of its power. (And this from someone who's never been to a live rock concert.) The stars of the film- the all-purpose backup and touring band called 'The Band-' give a simple but enlightening insight to the mechanics of their 16 years on the road and how their Thanksgiving Day final concert in San Francisco turned into a revival-like celebration. Even though I grew up on jazz music more so than rock, I can fully appreciate The Band's intense, immense music background- influenced by everything from blues to country to folk music. As for the concert itself you have the likes of Neil Young, Ron Wood, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, and Dr. John (who gives a standout, honky-tonk performance of "Such A Night,") kickin' it on stage before it's all over. And if these live performances weren't enough, there are additional performances done on a sound stage with artists that weren't part of the live show woven into the 117-minute film: a fabulous folk/gospel jam session of the song "The Weight" teamed with the Staples Singers (lead by Mavis Staples, who sounds very Gladys Knight-like) and about thirty minutes later shifting gears into the lovely folk ballad "Evangeline," replete with fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar from Emmylou Harris. Also cool is Muddy Waters bluesing on "Ain't that a Man," and the finale with all the artists of "I Shall Be Released." You just might be.
- Jan 2, 2005
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