I remember the night a carload of us went to the movies in East Hartford to see “The Last Waltz.” It was 1978. And we loved The Band. We still love The Band, I say “we” still although I haven’t seen most of the friends I went with in over 20 or more years … since I moved up here to Maine 30 years ago.
But, back to The Band. I have the CD and DVD of “The Last Waltz” and every time I listen or watch it, it never fails to fill me with happiness. I’ll find myself smiling when I’m not singing along (something no one would want to have to listen to!), and then there are parts that make me start to reminiscing … make me become a bit teary-eyed … and then the musing begins … and the hankering to go back … just one more time …
Then there are tunes like “Up On Cripple Creek” that bring back the smile … lodel-lodel’lodel, lodel ...whooo… And “I Shall Be Released” that make you want to sing your heart out along with Dylan and The Band ... dancing around to Dr. John’s “Such A Night” … being charmed by Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote” … moved by Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” (I love that tune) … singing “The Weight” … this show continues to kick butt every time it’s played on a turntable, CD or DVD player … The only difference between the concert itself and the CD and DVD is that the latter formats include performances that happened after the Winterland Arena Thanksgiving Day show in 1976.
Now I could go on and on about “The Last Waltz” (trust me) and the blow-your-mind musicians that shared the stage with Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel … Like Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Mavis Staples, The Staples Singers, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, Ron Wood, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield and Van Morrison …
But … we have one amazing opportunity to hear all this music again. Live. Maybe not by the legendary musicians listed, but by outstanding Maine musicians at the Opera House right here in Boothbay Harbor. Yes, “The Last Waltz” - the Maine version is happening Saturday, Feb. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Those Maine musicians are Bob Colwell (of the Boneheads and Soul Sensations fame), Dicky-do Hollis (Boneheads drummer), Justin Maxwell and Tim Sullivan (Maine Dead Project), Josh Robbins (The Shakes), Robbie Coffin (Devonsquare), Steve Vellani, Katie Daggett, Pat Colwell … and … hopefully, let’s say there’s a strong possibility ... Boothbay’s own Mark “Jehovah” Stover of the Holy Mackerels (and other bands) will be singing Van the Man’s “Caravan.” Mark said it’s one of his favorite Van Morrison tunes, but he’s not sure about performing without his guitar … So, fingers crossed!
“We told him he has to do ‘the ‘kick,’” Bob said. For those of you (and there can’t be many) who never saw the film, Morrison is moved to a spirited kick, not a real high one mind you, at the end of “Caravan” – it’s even been made into one of those (GIF) things now.
Bob and this group of Hallowell-based musicians have been performing “The Last Waltz” a couple dozen times over the past 10 years. Katie Daggett came on board as a regular player midway performing “Coyote” and Emmylou Harris’ “Evangeline.” Bob’s brother Pat takes center stage as Ronnie Hawkins and Muddy Waters.
“It started as a lark,” Bob said. “There are a lot of musicians in Hallowell … we all had Thanksgiving off that year and someone suggested we do ‘The Last Waltz’ as a local benefit. The Band was influential and quite revered in Hallowell. And we did it. At Easy Street for the Ian Parker Fund .” (Parker was a local musician before his passing).
Bob said the Maine version basically follows the play list of the film. The band plays as The Band and take turns as one of the friends who came to play one “last waltz.”
“Our version is never just put together for money; it’s just a complete labor of love that takes it to a whole new level.”
“It (The Last Waltz) was kind of the end of the era Woodstock began – for us of that period in time,” Colwell said.
Bob’s sure got that right. The Last Waltz, just speaking for myself now, while I was watching it that first time – and subsequent times in my living room – reminds me of the music, times, people and places that marked my life’s journey up to that point. The love. The good times. The bad times. It’s all part of my history that shaped who I am and what I believe – and it’s your history, too, if you’re diggin’ what I’m sharing here. And, if you are – I know I’ll be seeing you at this show on Feb. 16.
Til then my fellow Band lovers, I’ll leave you with the words of Robbie Robertson ...
“It’s the last waltz with you, but that don’t mean that the dancin’s over … The last waltz - we’re through, but that don’t mean the party’s over ...”