Last night I saw The Black Crowes and The Levon Helm Band. Nice double bill. I’ve been seeing the opening act a lot more at the concerts I’ve been attending lately, but I think it’s more of a coincidence than anything else. I love a good double bill, don’t get me wrong, but trying to fit in dinner and other issues can sometimes lead to skipping the opening act. Maybe it’s the $10 beers, maybe it’s the lack of real food in the venue, but it’s rare that I sit through two or more acts at a given concert. Nobody knows better than I do that this is my loss, but it is what it is. I want to say right here that I am a huge fan of The Band. I’ve come to appreciate their brand of countrified folk rock more and more as I get older. I realize that they have some Canadian blood in them, but I just feel like they represent a real slice of Americana. It’s always a good time to go back and reacquaint yourself if you feel it’s necessary. I don’t seem to ever get tired of listening to them.
Levon Helm is a living legend. The man is 69 years old. Born in Arkansas in 1940, Helm’s voice is unmistakable. Whenever I hear songs like “The Weight” or “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” I see this guy’s face in my mind. What soul. You feel like you can just picture Chester or Luke from “The Weight” or Virgil from “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” when you hear him tell those stories. How great is “Virgil quick come see, there goes Robert E. Lee?” The imagery is just outstanding and so very southern. It just boggles the mind that The Civil War was a mere 150 years ago (give or take of course). It seems like it happened centuries ago. Levon Helm brings it right into your living room. Hopefully you’ve all seen The Last Waltz, but if you haven’t get right on that. You need a good three hours, but it’s worth it. Last night Levon, unfortunately, was under doctor’s orders not to sing so we didn’t get the full effect, but the man was drumming his heart out. I’m sure many of you are aware he battled throat cancer about a decade ago and his vocal chords require constant maintenance. Hopefully he’ll be back on the beam soon. They say he recorded his last CD, Dirt Farmer, at 80% of his former vocal range. I didn’t know this. I’ll have to go back and re-listen. He’s much more diminutive than I imagined. This was the first time I got the chance to lay eyes on him. He’s not a big man. Then again, maybe I’ll have done a fair amount of shrinking over the next twenty years. Hopefully around the waist line, but I’m not holding my breath there.
Levon’s Band played several Band chestnuts. Chest Fever, It Makes No Difference, and The Weight were all tackled plus they covered The Grateful Dead’s Tennessee Jed, a personal favorite of mine. I really enjoyed the whole experience. Chris Robinson came out and took a verse or two of “The Weight” as the band shared the song. Amy Helm, his daughter, was front and center all night and Al Kooper, famous for any number of groups and sessions (most famously for playing the organ on Bob Dylan’s epic “Like a Rolling Stone”), made an appearance as well. I guess he lives in Somerville, MA relatively around the corner from me. Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable show and great to see Levon doing what he loves. I envy that and it was very heart warming to watch.
The Black Crowes-Levon Helm tour connection most recently comes from their idea to record at Helm’s recording studio at his home in Woodstock, NY known as “The Barn.” He hosts “Midnight Rambles” every Saturday night to help pay for his medical bills. Apparently local musicians drop in quite often and jam. Woodstock is still a haven for artists. I’m not sure my local police would go for weekly midnight concerts, but there is more space out that way. Anyway, I want in. I want to go to Yasgur’s Farm and the Baseball Hall of Fame on the same trip. That would be my idea of a great road trip. The Black Crowes recorded their latest record, Before The Frost, in front of a live studio audience. The CD comes out Tuesday, but they played the bulk of it in concert last night and it sounded great. There is a tandem CD with 8 new songs (with one cover I understand) called Until The Freeze that legal procurers of the CD can download with proof of purchase. I’m told it sounds great and their is light audience clapping in the background after each song as if maybe twenty people were there. I don’t think it’s ever been done before, but I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m looking forward to it.
OK, I need to shut myself off because I could go on for a while here. I’m leaving you with the set list and gentle push to go see this double bill. I’ve probably seen six or seven Black Crowes shows and I always leave satisfied. I was listening to Warpaint in my car last night and I had forgotten how much I liked that CD. Here is Goodbye Daughters of The Revolution. Rock on Robinson clan.
Good Morning Captain. Make Glad. Let Me Share The Ride. Houston Don’t Dream About Me. Whoa Mule. Shine Along. Appaloosa. She Gave Good Sunflower. High Head Blues. I Ain’t Hiding. What is Home. Movin’ On Down The Line. A Train Still Makes A Lonely Sound. Sometimes Salvation. Twice As Hard. Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love). – Encore -She Talks To Angels. Shake Your Money Maker.