Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz opens with the declaration that ‘This film should be played loud!’. And it really should. Scorsese’s film charting The Band’s farewell concert at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1976 is a musical marvel, a toe-tapping, heart-pumping slice of rock n’ roll history captured on film. This is the definitive concert movie.
The Band (Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm) were one of the great bands in the 1960s and ’70s, delivering gutsy blues-driven country music which still rings true in the 21st Century. While they’re probably best known for their work with Bob Dylan, their accomplished stye of loose rock n’ roll saw them work with a whole host of musical greats – all of whom make an appearance in this 1978 release. It’s a veritable who’s-who of musical geniuses: Bob Dylan, Van Morrison Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters are just some of the talent involved in the lineup. The concert is intercut with interviews with members of The Band, clips which show them to be fun-loving, yet passionate musicians.
Every performance on display in The Last Waltz is great, but the highlight of the show is Van Morrison‘s high-kicking rendition of Caravan. It’s a true grin-inducing take on this track from the Belfast Cowboy’s classic 1970 album Moondance. It needs to be seen to be believed – and not even Robbie Robertson seems to know what the hell is going on.
This Masters of Cinema release comes with a pair of commentaries (one with Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson, the other featuring Levon Helm and Garth Hudson and others), a wonderful 22 minute documentary, Revisiting The Last Waltz, archival outtakes and a stills gallery. Brilliant.