Friday, July 20, 2007

The Levon Helm Band at the Ryman Auditorium

Well, folks, a few days ago on July 18, Red Blondehead took a mid-week trip to Nashville to catch The Levon Helm Band at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to RB friend Wyatt, we scored AMAZING seats, and if you were there you might have noticed a long-haired blonde girl smiley stupidly for the entire performance. That was me.

I think anyone who has enjoyed a record by The Band or anyone who has enjoyed The Last Waltz would have loved this concert. The Levon Helm Band, featuring Levon Helm, multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, and guitarist Jimmy Vivino, among others, played many Band classics, blues standards, and favorite covers. Special guests throughout the night included Emmylou Harris, Little Sammy Davis, Buddy Miller, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, John Hiatt, and Sheryl Crow.

All talented musicians, the Levon Helm Band pulled off many Band classics such as "Chest Fever," "Tears of Rage," and "Ophelia." The finale and encore were "The Weight" and "I Shall Be Released," respectively, and both performances recalled the glory of the star-studded performances on The Last Waltz.

Highlights were the Helm/Harris duet "Evangeline" and Helm favorite "Ophelia," which featured a stripped-down horn section. We were warned that Helm's vocals weren't "what they used to be" due to his recent bout with throat cancer. However, despite his frail appearance, one would hardly know they weren't hearing the Helm of yesteryear.

As to be expected, the show was bittersweet. While listening to Jimmy Vivino tackle the vocals on "Tears of Rage," I couldn't help but notice what was missing, or rather, who was missing: Richard Manuel's soulful vocals are that song's trademark, and during the show he was never more missed than during the opening bars of that song. Rick Danko, too, was conspicuously absent; again, with a voice so distinctive, it's hard not to imagine his ghost onstage.

This show was worth it, though, despite the sad moments that were bound to occur. As a gal born about twenty years too late to witness the original lineup of The Band, I think this was as good as it gets. Catch this show if you are lucky enough to have them tour near you!


Blogger bigshoulders said...

Great review!
the first DVD I ever purchased was "The Last Waltz." I'm so jealous! You were definitely in the company of some awesome musicians, and judging by your photos, dang close too!

Please tell me that he performed "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." When I think of Levon, I think of Levon and Virgil Cain...


9:52 PM  
Blogger bigshoulders said...

P.S.: I miss Rick Danko, too.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Actually, they didn't play "Dixie"! I agree with you, too: such a wonderful song. One I forgot to mention, though, was "Rag Mama Rag."

4:30 PM  

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