I watched “The Last Waltz” last night with my family. The movie itself is difficult to describe because it is so powerful and amazing. Essentially, The Band performed their last concert at the Winterland in San Francisco in 1976, on Thanksgiving. While that really means nothing to me, apparently the Winterland was a really small venue for them after 16 years on the road, but was significant because it was the first place where they played as The Band. Either way, they invited some of their friends to play and Martin Scorsese put it on film.
The movie came out in 1978, which was the year before I was born. Several things floored Speedy and me while we were watching the movie. We realized that we knew almost all of The Band’s songs, despite not really realizing we’d been listening to them our whole lives. The sheer musicality of the set, coupled with the astounding musical talent displayed by both The Band and all of their friends was overwhelming. Music has done a lot of changing in our lifetimes and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
We got into a big discussion about the influence of commercialization on music and the negative effect it has had on producing quality musicians. One of the members of The Band, Garth, can play just about anything put into his hands and play it well. He busted out everything from an organ to a saxophone to an accordion during the show and played it well. Every member of The Band could do that. Even the bassist, who I was convinced spent most of the movie coked to the gills, played bass, lead, a violin, and an upright bass. At one point, the drummer picked up a banjo while the piano player headed over to the drums. It was stunning to see so many different people who had mastered so many different and difficult instruments. It’s a lot more impressive than watching some teenager belt out what amounts to glorified karaoke.
The guests were outstanding as well. Everybody and their mother showed up to play. Speedy and I kept gasping when we recognized Joni Mitchell singing backup for Neil Young’s “Helpless.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Neil Young smile before.
Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” actually brought tears to my eyes because it was beautiful, haunting, and so far above anything I’d ever heard before.
Plus, the best part about the whole thing was how excited my dad was. He was so happy to get to share the whole thing with Speedy and me. He had this big grin on his face the whole time and whenever Speedy or I would get all excited, or react to something, he’d smile even bigger. It was really cool.
I’m starting to realize that I’m a pretty lucky kid to have as cool a family as I do. And that I’m still being raised to be weird. However, I’ve accepted that.
Quote of the Day: "He called me up, and I said, "Sure I'd like a job. What does it mean? What do I do?" And he said, "Well, son, you won't make much money, but you'll get more pussy than Frank Sinatra." Robbie Robertson on Ronnie Hawkins