From the sweet smell of cannabis wafting from the stall in the men's room, I thought for a second that I was in the Winterland Ballroom -- San Francisco, 1976. In '76 I was kindergarten and The Band was something I hoped to play clarinet in when I got to junior high. Thanksgiving of that year marked the final performance of the original members of The Band -- Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. It was an all-star send off with a guest appearances by a veritable who's who of Rock and Roll Hall of famers -- Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Ringo Star. And who else could capture the quintessential rock concert but the maestro himself : Martin Scorsese. In his introduction of the digitally re-mastered print of The Last Waltz, Scorsese riffed on how this project started out as a simple way of documenting the end of an era -- perhaps they would even record it on video. Two years in the making, the result is a 35mm masterpiece that is by far the best rock and roll film ever. Period.
Last night, 25 years later (well, almost. The film was actually released in April 1978), The Last Waltz returned to New York's Zigfield Theater to mark the re-release of the film (this Friday in NY and LA, wider release in the next couple of weeks) along with the DVD (May 7th) and a new 4CD box set (April 23). The movie is the perfect amalgamation of moving pictures and music as Scorsese lays claim to the title "Father of the Music Video."
The Last Waltz is so much more than a concert film. It's about the life of a touring rock and roll band, and what it means to come to the end of the road. In the most haunting moment of the film, Dylan joins The Band in a soulful rendition of "Forever Young." Thanks to the magic of the movies, this is exactly how we'll remember the musicians who took part in one of the greatest nights in rock history.
This is a movie that no music or movie fan can afford to miss. See it in the theater, buy the DVD and remember what rock and roll used to be all about.
Source: Evan T. Cohen (Treeboy Pictures)