Friday, July 15, 2005

Hey, Mister, can you tell me / where a man might find a bed

In the 20 or so years since I first / last saw it, I have always had a soft spot for Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, his film of the farewell performance of The Band at Bill Graham's Winterland in San Francisco on Thanksgiving, 1976, remember it as one of the great music / concert movies.

Through a piece of serendipity I watched / listened to it again today. It lived up to my memories of it, though I found Scorsese as naïve interviewer quite funny after the polished perfomances as documentary narrator he's been giving for the last decade. But he's put together a beautiful movie. & Robbie Robertson is not beyond a bit of myth-making.

But the music is what makes it memorable. I've always loved The Band, & they were in great form on this night. & a nice selection of guests. Robbie Robertson & Eric Clapton engaging in a guitar battle which Clapton won. A marvellous version, quite possibly the greatest ever, of The Weight performed by The Band & The Staple Singers. Michael McClure & Lawrence Ferlinghetti read briefly. Paul Butterfield played harmonica on a couple of numbers including a driving version of Mystery Train – I don't know what happened to him, possibly he died young, but the Butterfield Blues Band, with Mike Bloomfield on guitar, was probably the best white blues band ever. Plus Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Dr John, Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison.

& finally Bob Dylan, in fine voice, doing Forever Young, & a version of Baby let me follow you down that showed he always wanted to be a rock musician. & then singing the opening verse of I shall be released which was the group finale.

I taped it all, so it won't be another 20 years before I visit it again.

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