The Last Waltz is one of my all time favorite films. It’s a film of The Band‘s last concert which they performed in San Francisco on Thanksgiving in 1976. It was filmed by Martin Scorsese and is regarded as one of the greatest rock films of all time.
Members of The Band have influences from rock, folk, country, gospel, and the blues. They are a conduit that took these influences and output their own beautiful amalgam that represents all of it together. Because they represent so much american musical history and music of their day, they were both influencers and the influenced at the same time. You see their effect represented in the friends they bring on stage for the show, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Dr. John, and lots more.
Last Saturday, 36 years after the original Last Waltz, a group of musicians including members of Dr. Dog, Ween, Gomez, Nada Surf, The Lonely Forest, The Submarines and The Antibalas Horns got together on Thanksgiving weekend to perform “The Complete Last Waltz” again in San Francisco. There was no way I was missing that so my friend Sara (Who finally showed me the beauty of the film after I’d been telling my parents it was boring for most of my life.) and I headed over to SF for the show. They burned through all 41 songs taking a break only once and rotating through 3 drummers. It wasn’t a perfect show but it was a great show. They never introduced the entire band, sometimes they’d miss an intro for the singer of the next song, and they adjusted the mic volume as they went. But none of that really mattered. They weren’t there to be introduced, they were there to sing these songs to a room of friends that danced and sang along with the shared connection of a day in 1976 that we all wish we could have been at. They played it loud, we sang along, and more than a show, it was a celebration.
If you’re interested in an intro to The Band, start with their most famous song The Weight. A couple other great ones to start with are The Night they Drove ol’ Dixie Down and their version of Georgia on my Mind. After you’ve gotten to know the boys a little try, It makes no difference.