“… Take a load off Fanny … and put the load right on me.”
Thoughts on "The Last Waltz" Part One.
Thanks to its use in a Cingular/ATT ad, “The Weight,”released by The Band in 1968, is getting much deserved attention. I’ve always been fascinated with this song; it’s biblical, it’s witty, it’s filled with references to real life events and people in the song –writer’s (Robbie Robertson) life. Please read Peter Viney’s brilliant piece on “The Weight” which includes insightful quotes from Robertson himself as well as Levon Helm and other Band members about the song and its meaning.
I’d been seeing the ads featuring “The Weight” for a few weeks when, one night last week while channel surfing, I stumbled into “The Last Waltz” on Turner Classic Movies. (More on Dylan's participation in TLW and my experience seeing him live in November of 2004 coming soon here.) I’ve had several of the numbers from TLW soundtrack on my iPod since I got it this blessed gadget, including the Mavis/Pops Staples gospel infused collaboration of “The Weight,” but I’d forgotten what a powerful film TLW is. Scorsese was so careful not to make this just another concert film, as this was not just another concert; it was a 7 hour (7 hours! This makes even Bruce Springsteen’s legendary four hour sets seem brief) love letter to an era of rock and roll that will never return.
Maybe what strikes me the most in the film is the almost naïve amazement that Robbie Robertson displays every time a guest performer takes or leaves the stage. He seems genuinely surprised that the likes of Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison would join them on stage. Back up band extraordinaire, The Band brings the best out in everyone, as some of the guests’ performances of signature songs are certainly the best ever. (Particularly Van Morrison’s rousing version of ‘Caravan,’ Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ with Joni Mitchell’s ethereal background vocals, and Ms. Mitchell’s own ‘Coyote.’) You can rent or buy the DVD, but TCM is re-airing “The Last Waltz” on New Year’s Eve at 10pm, which means it will wrap up in the remaining minutes of 2004; what better time to hear Robertson say, at the concert’s end, “Good night… Goodbye!”