“Yeah, New York, it was an adult portion. It was an adult dose. So it took a couple of trips to get into it. You just go in the first time and you get your ass kicked and you take off. As soon as it heals up, you come back and you try it again. Eventually, you fall right in love with it.” –Levon Helm, The Last Waltz
Three decades ago the former monkeydrummer and unquestionable life force of The Band talked on film with Oscar-winning coke vacuum Marty Scorsese about his first dance with the Large Apple. This weekend, he comes back again, born again, an adult dose awaiting us this time.
Levon’s no stranger to New York, of course, but he’s back with a full band and a voice that’s overcome his recent bout with throat cancer. And from all the documented accounts of the increasingly legendary Midnight Rambles at his Woodstock studio, Levon’s soul and spirit have returned as well. And he shall be a good man, Friday and Saturday at the Beacon Theater.
A collection of all-stars fills out the Levon Helm Band, an accompanying outfit that includes former Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, Howard Johnson, Max Weinberg 7’s Jimmy Vivino and Levon’s talented daughter, Amy (who’ll also sing and play with opener Ollabelle).
So I’m forgoing a celebratory St. Patrick’s night out, the second round of the NCAA Tournament and the guaranteed rager of Bustle In Your Hedgerow on Saturday night in favor of seeing one of my musical heroes for the very first time. I’m also positively giddy about the prospect of “special guests” — could Garth Hudson’s giant forehead or Dr. John’s unintelligibility make an appearance? We’ll find out.
As a congratulatory prize for sticking through this superfluous preview, here are four iPod-ready Levon tracks for your download. Enjoy this zip file of The WS Wolcott Medicine Show, Rag Mama Rag, and Don’t Ya Tell Henry from Rock of Ages, and Back To Memhis from Watkins Glen. Don’t say I never gave ya nuthin’.