The Last Waltz 40 Tour
April 13, 2017
Los Angeles, CA
Review & Photos by Kimberly Annette
On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, a band simply called “The Band” played their final concert appropriately called The Last Waltz. The event was so extraordinary that 40 years later a remarkable group of musicians has recreated it as a 40th anniversary tribute.
This homage to The Last Waltz, lead by Grammy Award winning musician Warren Haynes (the Allman Brothers Band, Govt. Mule) and Grammy Award-winning musician/producer Don Was, ignites a nostalgically magical musical journey through time. I was able to see it firsthand within the lofty confines of the Orpheum Theatre.
The lights dimmed as “The Last Waltz Theme” echoed hauntingly up through the seats, stirring the anticipation and exciting the crowd to a roar as the musicians took the stage. Staying true to the spirit of The Band’s music, Haynes and Was lead the lineup for the Los Angeles show that featured Jamey Johnson (vocals, guitar), Danny Louis (keys, piano), Terence Higgins (drums) and Mark Mullins (trombone and leader of the horn section).
The house band was joined by some very special guests: Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Dave Malone of the Radiators, Bob “Steady Rollin” Margolin, and the one and only Garth Hudson of The Band. Together, they journeyed into the reaches of their passion for a well- loved yet rarely covered collection of vintage rock music.
“Up On Cripple Creek,” sung by Jamey Johnson with authentic southern charm, began the first set, while Warren Haynes followed with “Stage Fright.” A cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” rang out with bluesy soul as Johnson gave the audience a glimpse of why he is a CMA and ACM award-winning artist.
Dr. John played the same songs he did at The Last Waltz concert: “Such a Night” and “Down South in New Orleans” with Cyril Neville. Neville stuck around for a take on Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?,” a song Ronnie Hawkins performed with The Band before they became The Band.
With much awe and respect, the next special guest came as a welcomed surprise: Taj Mahal, The 74-year-old bluesman glided onto the stage with a presence as big as life for “Shape I’m In” and “King Harvest.” He would be around for much of the second set.
The first set ended with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which had folks up dancing in their seats. One could almost hear Levon Helm, The Band’s drummer and singer who passed away five years ago, joining in from the heavens with full approval.
After a short intermission, the jam kicked back into gear with Jamey Johnson singing “Ophelia” backed Haynes’ smokin’ guitar. Add Mahal in for “Life Is A Carnival,” and the harmonies filled the groove to perfection. Dave Malone joined Haynes and Johnson for a cover of the Crosby, Still, Nash & Young song “Helpless,” which mesmerized the heart and rocked the soul ever so gently.
Bob Margolin enthusiastically arrived on stage with stories of The Last Waltz and beyond. He covered Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” which was not played at the 1976 show but later covered by Bob Dylan at the all-night blues jam that followed, according to Margolin. To have played that jam session with Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Ron Woods, Paul Butterfield, and Bob Margolin — man what a night!
Garth Hudson, one of only two surviving members of The Band (the other man still standing is Robbie Robertson), astonished the entire crowd when he tickled the ivories during a fantastic six-minute intro to The Band’s “The Weight.” At 79, he could hardly walk to the piano, but he’s still a master. He kicked the encore off with “The Genetic Method,” an organ extravaganza that segued right into “Chest Fever” to close a truly mind-blowing night of phenomenal talent and music that transcends time.
From the moment it began to the last note of the encore, the enchantment embodied the senses. To recreate an event that left its indelible mark on history is no easy task, yet over 40 years later, The Last Waltz lives and breathes life that is inspired by the love of playing classic music together.