Forget stuffing, gravy and pies, the true treat every Thanksgiving is the opportunity to revisit the best movie made about a live concert, The Last Waltz. For the last few years, a large group of musicians has done more than just slapped on the DVD, they have organized recreations with full-scale musical reviews. The players are a who’s who of the New York (and beyond) music scene and for the 2018 version of the event, the gang once again gathered at the gorgeous Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on Saturday, November 17th.
The show started with the “Theme From The Last Waltz” being played from the dueling balcony suites as the brass blew from one side and the strings strummed from the other setting the mood as the lights went up on stage to find the core players kicking off “Up on Cripple Creek.” Joe Russo, Scott Metzger, Sam Cohen, Dave Dreiwitz, Josh Kaufman, Jeff Chimenti and Marco Benevento comprised the spine of the band, directing the show and playing the majority of the night.
The group and guests performed the complete version of the concert which includes songs that have still not been released for various reasons; however they also switched the order around slightly so the fans were never 100% sure of what was coming next. Some early highlights were when Craig Finn joined the band for “Life is a Carnival” which rollicked via big horn breaks and a smoking solo from Metzger before one of those unreleased songs, “Georgia on My Mind” was delivered by Alecia Chakour in a killer soulful manner.
“Rag Mamma Rag” was a delight, injecting some hoedown to the party as King Tuff took the lead vocals and Katie Jacoby stole the song with her violin support. The country blues received a jolt when Matthew Logan Vazquez performed “Mystery Train” (complete with harmonica) and “Who Do You Love?” with some Texas flair. Instead of strap issues, Nels Cline had some sound issues as he played the Eric Clapton role on this night but quickly recovered to wrap up “Further On Up The Road” with a three-guitar attack as Cohen and Metzger assisted.
Speaking of stretching out, while the event kept the covers close to the originals, “This Wheels on Fire” (with lead vocals from King Tuff again) was a fantastic exception as Russo and Benevento threw the finale of the tune into space; a fantastic rendition from a night full of them.
On a more roots-based note, Nicole Atkins gracefully sang “Four Strong Winds” before leading a full band rendition of “Helpless” which saw all of the female performers supporting on backing vocals. Those female vocals were excellent when they stepped to the front as well; Leslie Mendelson sang an affectingly understated “It Makes No Difference” before Lola Kirke performed the role of Joni Mitchell on “Coyote”.
The long show received an energetic kick in the teeth as John Roderick embraced the dramatic “Dry Your Eyes” and nailed the moment leading to Eric D Johnson channeling Van Morrison (minus purple jumpsuit and leg kicks) keeping the spirits soaring with the duo of “Tura Lura Lural (That’s an Irish Lullaby)” and the brass blasting sing-along “Caravan”.
Taking a break two and a half hours in allowed the band to catch a breather as the long night kept going, and while it would have been cool to have some Poetry read at some point (Craig Finn doing Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Loud Prayer” anyone) the easy flowing familial vibes were seeping from the stage into the audience as groups who have been attending this special event for years and newcomers were all warmly welcomed.
Benevento brought the music back with “Genetic Method > Chest Fever” but the energy had begun to wane as The Parkington Sisters (down one member who was giving birth the same night) delivered “Evangeline” and “Acadian Driftwood” with fine folk fashion. Kevin Morby’s run of Dylan tunes was admirable but never truly took off before the group sing-alongs made famous by the film. The exhaustive night ended brightly just after midnight with “Don’t Do It” as everyone in attendance left the immaculate venue with a smile on their face, adequately prepped for the hectic holiday season.