Move over “Alice’s Restaurant” on the radio and Arlo Guthrie at Carnegie Hall, there’s a new musical Thanksgiving tradition in town.
The Complete Last Waltz presents in concert every song from The Last Waltz, The Band’s famed Thanksgiving 1976 farewell show and film. This Thanksgiving eve’s performance marks the third annual event, second year at New York’s The Capitol Theatre and first webcast.
Update – The Complete Last Waltz 2014 has surfaced on YouTube. Watch below or stream individual audio tracks on soundcloud via 93.5 WMWV Radio. Official photos from Capitol Theatre are here.
Click here to preview the event with The Future Heart’s extensive song-by-song recap of last year’s event featuring illustrations by Michael “Inklines” Arthur and a download of the entire concert; or here for photos and videos from the first year in San Francisco. Full details on this year’s show follow below.
The core of The Complete Last Waltz house band first covered The Band at a June 2012 Levon Helm tribute concert following the legendary drummer’s death. All four of the house musicians on that night are members of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – Dave Dreiwitz (best known as Ween’s bassist), Marco Benevento (also in Benevento/Russo Duo), Scott Metzger (Wolf!), and Joe Russo (from Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s recently disbanded Furthur, Benevento/Russo Duo and many other groups) – and with the addition of Sam Cohen, Josh Kaufman (Yellowbirds), Jeff Chimenti (RatDog, formerly Furthur and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade), and Alecia Chakour (Warren Haynes Band), they formed The Complete Last Waltz main band for all three years. Joining them on most songs are the Antibalas horns (Stuart Bogie, Raymond Mason, Martin Perna, Jordan McLean, John Altieri) and a revolving cast of lead vocalists and backing musicians trading places throughout the show.
As in the past two years, former Yellowbirds frontman and Apollo Sunshine guitarist Sam Cohen is musical director. “Sam’s just one of those one degree of separation kind of linchpin guys that not a lot of people out in the world have heard of, but everyone in a band has crossed paths with him,” Fruit Bats leader and former Shins keyboardist Eric D. Johnson told jambands.com last year. “Plus, he’s such a sick guitarist.”
“The thing that really is cool,” Johnson explained, “is there are some really great names in the cast of characters who are doing it, but there’s not a huge headliner either. It’s really about the sum of the parts. It’s a bunch of people really enjoying each other’s company.” Third time veteran of the concert Nels Cline of Wilco has expressed similar thoughts. “It’s not like a lot of super obvious, dinosaur people; it’s a lot of really great younger players who really know how to play this music,” he told Rolling Stone. “I feel like I am the dinosaur on the list, coming in here as the old man, as it were, and trying to rip it up on the guitar.”
- Nels Cline (Wilco)
- Toby Leaman and Eric Slick (Dr Dog)
- Kevin Morby (The Babies, ex-Woods)
- Cass McCombs
- Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats, ex-Shins)
- Binky Griptite (Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings)
- Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit)
- Elvis Perkins
- Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards)
- Jocie Adams (The Low Anthem)
- Delicate Steve
- Nicole Atkins
- Marc Black
- John Roderick (The Long Winters)
- Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine)
- Ryan Miller (Guster)
- Jon Shaw (Cass McCombs)
- Kenny Siegel (Johnny Society)
- The Parkington Sisters
- Matt Trowbridge (RANA)
- Jason Gallagher (Leroy Justice)
The Complete Last Waltz is becoming a new Thanksgiving tradition. Read in depth how the project came together here and see photos of Nels Cline, Dr Dog’s Eric Slick, Twin Shadow’s George Johnson Jr., Cass McCombs and others from that inaugural concert in 2012 at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater here. As its name claims, The Complete Last Waltz features all 40 songs from The Band’s famous farewell – including those cut from Martin Scorsese’s film – in a two-set, four-hour show.
Following 2012’s inaugural event at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater, The Complete Last Waltz moved in 2013 to Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre, where it will return this year. With its rich heritage as a classic rock venue, recently renovated facilities, and ornate 1920s movie palace design – complete with baroque molding and embossed wall texturing, red velvet seats, a dome ceiling, organ wells, balconies and lavish curtains (similar to those from The Band’s 1976 concert) – the New York venue is the ideal setting for The Complete Last Waltz. The Cap’s “legendary acoustics,” architecture, and history – literally a Nationally Registered Historic Place since 1984 – have been brought into the 21st century by $2 million-worth of renovations including a state-of-the-art audio system, arena lighting, and 10 high-definition projectors.
The Complete Last Waltz 2014 will also be playing at a computer screen near you. Pre-order the webcast here.
UPDATE – The full webcast is streaming at the top of this page.
As with last year’s show at The Capitol Theatre, The Complete Last Waltz will again be held on Thanksgiving Eve, November 26th.
The Band were never the most fashionable group, but their impact on peers was undeniable and their influence has persisted through the decades. Now the time has come for a new generation of singers, songwriters and jammers to celebrate their music and their most iconic performance. “Every artist I’ve ever known was greatly influenced by this concert,” the show’s organizer Ramie Egan told Glide Magazine before its inaugural performance. “Not just The Band. This concert. In whatever format they encountered it. Beyond that, there was a lot of great music and interesting readings that happened that night that people don’t know. Now they will.”
The Band’s 1976 Last Waltz is among the most famous shows in rock history partly because the Martin Scorsese film it yielded (often hailed one of the greatest concert films of all-time), but also because the gig itself was iconic in every way. They weren’t just a band, the were The Band, icons or an era. That this was their last show was bound to make it memorable. That they went out with poetry readings, a Thanksgiving turkey dinner for the entire audience of 5000, ballroom dancing, and their own marathon performance that ran past 2 AM made it iconic. The who’s-who guestlist – Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers, Paul Butterfield, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, horns arranged by Allen Toussaint – and the performances they delivered were iconic. The material – ranging from Band originals to popular standards, ’50s rock n’ roll, blues, country, and jazz – was iconic.
“I think the vast majority people think of The Band as this good band from the ’70s,” Johnson mused last year. “Maybe they know they were Dylan’s band. It cannot be stressed their influence on music. When you actually think back to when their records were coming out, it’s just crazy, what they were doing and how ahead of their time they were and how they kind of invented the template for rock in the ’70s and beyond.”
For Cohen the tribute is firmly rooted in watching the DVD of The Last Waltz close to 100 times with his former bandmates in Apollo Sunshine. “It totally smoked us. I just loved it,” he recalled last year. “I read Levon’s book and got deeper and deeper into that stuff. It’s always been a source of inspiration, that’s like a band at the ultimate level of what that concept of a band is supposed to be, this communal thing on wheels with a band house and everything. At one point Apollo Sunshine lived in a farmhouse in western Mass. Our MO of what the model of a functioning group of musicians was.”
“There is no way that one band can do what The Band did that night,” Egan explained. “And we’re not trying to ‘recreate’ we’re going to ‘re-present.” Cline agreed before the first show, “this is not going to be some totally archival thing. It’s going to actually be a living thing.” He elaborated, “We’re going to do a slightly different take . . . These guys are not going to be super reverent to the point where we’re going to do some kind of weird Xerox of the music and the event. It has to have a life of its own.”