Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: The Ogden Theatre was sold-out for the ninth annual The Last Waltz Revisited concert last Wednesday. The Thanksgiving eve tradition is highly anticipated each year, and 2013 was no exception. Smiles abounded with warm hugs being exchanged and old friends reuniting as the venue filled up before the show. The Ogden seemed to embody the glow of the holidays, it was the epitome of merriment. Hosted each year by Polytoxic members CR Gruver and Tori Pater along with Scott Handler, Jeremy Wendelin, Darren DeLaup, and Kevin Buchanan of the The Denver Horns, the show is a musical smorgasbord of talent. Joining the already outstanding cast, 40+ musicians graced the stage, taking part in the reenactment of one of the most famous concerts in Rock and Roll history. Of course, there is a tradition here. When The Band originally played the show on November 25, 1976, they also brought a few friends with them including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond, and Eric Clapton (just to name a few). Adding to the amazing collaborative effort delivered on that momentous occasion, The Last Waltz also was the final show that The Band would ever perform with all the original members. It is something of myth and legend, something to be revered–and the crowd at the Ogden on Wednesday seemed to carry this legacy throughout the evening.
The Opener: Cementing a newer tradition, Buck Perigo kicked off the show with a performance Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant;” a story-song about Thanksgiving errand that Guthrie took many moons ago that started with simple trip to the dump, progressed to an arrest for littering and ended in New York City with Guthrie being psychiatrically evaluated for the draft. Though it is remembered as an anti-war song, in our modern setting, it effectively transports listeners back in time–back to the time that birthed The Last Waltz. Combined with the fact that it actually happened on Thanksgiving, it is hard to imagine a piece better suited as an opener for The Last Waltz Revisited. The fans have come to expect it and suffice it to say, he was well received.
The Last Waltz Revisited: Tori Pater, CR Gruver and company kicked off the show with “Don’t Do It.” Joining them for the opening song were Sam Holt Band members Andy Clapp (drums), Michael “Spanky” McCluer (bass) and Damon Wood (of Damon Wood’s Harmonious Junk). The mismatched group of musicians got the show of to a swinging start. Next, Patrick Latella showed off his guitar chops for “Stage Fright.” After that, they were joined by Marcy Baruch and Ted Tilton for Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote.”
The first set continued quickly–the original show had 39 songs on it’s setlist, and almost all of it was classic material, so there is always an excess of ground to cover at The Last Waltz Revisited. At all times, 8-13 musicians were on stage; Pete Wall shared his mad saxophone skills in “Down South in New Orleans,” Bridget Law of Elephant Revival wailed on her fiddle for “Rag Mama Rag,” Robby Peoples delivered a mean harmonica for Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” and CR Gruver’s vocals hit the bullseye on his rendition of Dr. John’s “Such a Night.”
The first set hit a climax as Jessica Goodkin sang the Springsteen classic “Atlantic City” for the crowd (though “Atlantic City” hadn’t been written at the time of The Last Waltz, a reformed version of The Band released the definitive of the song on their 1993 album Jericho). This was followed by a downright soulful version of Van Morrison’s “Caravan” (also sang by Goodkin–awesome) and then topped off with the ever-iconic tune “The Weight.” The musicians nailed this last bit and for those who have spent a lifetime listening to The Band, it is hard to fathom any other musician adding to these songs’ original greatness, but the talent on Wednesday did an outstanding job of capturing the mood and spirit of The Last Waltz while incorporating their own flare and style into the individual songs.
It’s not surprising that set two brought a whole new slew of musicians. Octopus Nebula’s Keith “Fleeb” Thomas and Stanky Pockets’ Miles Guzman took to the stage for for “Who Do You Love.” Just like the first set, songs and musicians transitioned quickly. Throughout the rest of the evening, members of The Congress, DeadPhish Orchestra, Disco Floyd, and many other artists shared favorites with nostalgic fans. They delivered Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” and (naturally) more of the The Band’s quintessential tracks like “Ophelia,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek.” There is something about these tunes that just pulls emotion out of fans; couples stood hand in hand, tears of happiness were liberated, and the smiles never faded. Just as they did in the original concert, all of the musicians gathered onstage to perform “I Shall Be Released” as a group–a warm but fitting farewell to a fantastic evening.
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: B+