The Orpheum Theatre's marquee for The Last Waltz 40 - photo by Steve Kennedy
The Orpheum Theatre's marquee for The Last Waltz 40 Tour - photo by Steve Kennedy

Warren Haynes/Don Was’ 40th Anniversary of The Last Waltz

Orpheum Theater, Los Angeles, CA

April 13, 2017

Story and photos by Steve Kennedy

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Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for more of Steven’s photos of the concert.

“The road was our school, it gave us a sense of survival, taught us all we know, there’s not much left we can really take from the road.” -Robbie Robertson

The Last Waltz 40 Tour started with one-off shows in New Orleans where Don Was, Warren Haynes, Michael McDonald and Jamey Johnson fronted the band. The enthusiasm from the crowds those nights was more than the band expected, so they decided to craft a tour from it.  This night the tour landed at the beautiful Orpheum Theater located in the historic theater district of Los Angeles. It was a full house even though surprisingly it was not a sellout.

In case you didn’t know, The Last Waltz was the last concert ever by The Band. They were known for backing Bob Dylan in the 70’s and also producing a stack of classic American music. The original concert was produced by Bill Graham and a movie was made by Martin Scorsese. Many have called the movie one of greatest concert movies ever made. The show took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day 1976. The show lasted over 5 hours and featured an all-star guest list too long to list here. A few of the notables were Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, and Muddy Waters. Oh wait- there’s more: Ronnie Wood, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, Neil Diamond and Stephen Stills- OK you get the gist; I’ll just stop it there.

The 2017 version honoring this historic show featured and all-star cast in its own right. Throughout the show guest appearances kept taking it to new levels. The night kicked off with “Up on Cripple Creek” with country star Jamey Johnson taking the lead vocals. From there they went into “Stage Fright” with Warren Haynes taking over the vocals. The third song of the show was the first twist for me, “Georgia.” Jamey Johnson’s powerful country vocals were perfect and Warren Haynes dropped an inspired lead from his black Stratocaster guitar. At this point I knew we were in for a treat. The set continued with Van Morrison’s “Caravan” followed by “Makes No Difference.” The sixth song of the night brought out the first guest appearance of the night, Cyril Neville of the Meters, and- wearing a purple suit and trademark flat-brimmed hat- Dr. John. Dr. John sang a fitting song that would help define the evening’s festivities, “Such a Night.” To hear one of the original cast of the show, Dr. John, sing was fantastic. They followed that up with another tune which helped steer the show into a decidedly New Orleans jam vibe, “Down South in New Orleans.” They quickly followed it up with Cyril Neville singing “Who Do You Love.” Jamey Johnson took the vocals back for “Rag Mama Rag’.  The night’s next guest, Taj Mahal, joined in for one of my personal favorites, “Shape I’m In.” He seemed to really enjoy himself all night, smiling and clapping along to the tunes. He stayed on and sang, “King Harvest (Has Surely Come).” They closed the first set with a fan favorite, a song sung by Levon Helm at the original show, “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down” Again, Jamey Johnson’s vocal inflections really helped to retain the southern spirit of this classic song.

After a short break the crew returned to the stage for the second set and ripped into “Ophelia.” They welcomed the return of Taj Mahal to play along and sing “Life is a Carnival” and “Let Me Follow You Down.” Warren Haynes took the vocals and nailed Neil Young’s “Helpless.” Next up was a guest appearance by the Radiators frontman and New Orleans legend Dave Malone. They kicked into “This Wheel’s on Fire,” which featured Dave and Warren riffing licks back and forth together. Cyril Neville joined back in for “Mystery Train.”

Check out the full gallery of photos by Steve Kennedy here.

Next up was another guest who played at the original concert in 1976, Bob Margolin. Bob was Muddy Water’s guitar player and was only 27 years old at the time he played that show. He talked about being there that night and how he wished Muddy would have played the slide guitar. He said he would play the slide tonight and “lay down the pipe”. Bob really kicked the energy up a notch with his vibrant personality and on stage antics. Bob ad Warren traded licks as they shredded the blues classic, ‘Mannish Boy’. Bob told a story about the late night into the morning dawn after hours blues jam at the hotel which featured Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, Levon Helm and Ronnie Wood. To be a fly on the wall at that jam. He said they played blues standards by the great Robert Johnson. Then, joined on stage by Taj Mahal, they went into ‘Kind Hearted Women’ followed by Warren Haynes singing Eric Clapton’s ‘Further on up the Road’. The show started to move into the climax with the playing of Bob Dylan’s inspirational, ‘Forever Young’ sang beautifully by Taj Mahal.

Then came the surprise of the night for me. One of the only two remaining members of the original BAND to still be alive, Garth Hudson was introduced. Garth was The Band’s pianist and keyboard player. Garth entered the stage first, stopping to tap on Cyril Neville’s drums. He was then escorted to center stage where the grand piano awaited his arrival. He sat down, hunched over and at the age of 79, donning a black suit and wide flat-brimmed hat, he played a beautiful ten plus-minute solo. The house was dead quiet, hanging on every note- this was true theater magic. Garth then lead the cast into one of The Band’s finest songs, “The Weight.” The theater was energized and rose to embrace the epic sing along. Jamie Johnson sang the first verse, Warren the second, Cyril the third, Taj the fourth and everybody joined to sing the final verse, wow! The whole cast of musicians stayed on for the set closer, another Bob Dylan masterpiece, “I Shall Be Released.”

From the channel of blisstanger.

The encore featured Garth Hudson returning to the organ back high up on stage left. He played “The Genetic Method” keeping everyone glued to every riff. Garth played with lots of spunk. He has a playful side which was clearly evident in his music. Jimmy Vivino joined Warren and the rest of the band on stage to close out the show with “Chest Fever.”

It was a truly stellar evening. The brainchild of bass player Don Was, who is one of the music industry’s most sought-after producers and Blue Note record CEO and renowned axe man, Warren Haynes. They gave life to such an inspiring catalogue of music. They paid tribute to a great night, a great band and musicians from an era of music that will live on forever.

From the video channel of Pat Myers.

To submit a review or story for consideration hit us at [email protected]

Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for more of Steven’s photos of the concert.