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Levon Helm Band - Mar. 7, 2008


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Mud and I made a trip to NYC to see Levon at the Beacon on Friday. The show was amazing - it surpassed my expectations - and I had some big hopes.

Levon looked so happy to be up there playing - smiled the whole night. And considering he can hardly talk, his singing was absolutely amazing!

His band was just a huge rotating assortment of musicians. There were usually around 10 people on stage, including a 5-piece brass section (min of 4 people on stage at once, max of 13 - unless you count the encore when there wer 18 people chimming in on The Weight). And everybody was smokin'! And Larry Campbell is a mad-man on everything he plays!

It was really nice seeing Levon playing mandolin (he isn't a "picker", just played chords) but it was soooo nice seeing him play on the kit - you can see every beat flow through him.

The band played one LONG set, somewhere between 2.5 - 3hrs.

Highlights included;

- Ophelia openener

- Shape I'm in

- Rag Mama Rag

- Tears of Rage

- The Weight (2nd encore)

- I Shall Be Released (1st encore)

- False Hearted Lover Blues

- Long Black Veil

- Into the Mystic (w/ Phoebe Snow on vocals)

and the 2 biggest and nicest surprises of the night for me were;

- Ashes of love (had a real nice bluegrass-y styling to it w/ Levon on mando)

- Deep Elem Blues (included a full brass section breakdown.....out of this world!)

Amy Helm (daughter) is usually in the band but wasn't there because she just had a baby. Stevie Wonder's daughter was sick when we saw him in TO. Seems like if someone's daughter is in their band, we're destined not to see them)

And I couldn't believe it when we stopped in at Backbacon's on Sunday and saw Larry Campbell playing with Phil and Friends at Langerado after he'd just played Fri and Sat with the Levon Helm Band in NYC!!! MAD-MAN!!!

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I read that the big man himself Clarence Clemons joined Levon on stage. I guess there was a round of Bruuuuce's been shouted.


It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

Back to Memphis

Everything Gonna Be Alright (? feat. Little Sammy)

Scratch my Back (? feat. Little Sammy again)

Long Black Veil

I Wanna Know (Stand By Me) (? feat. Katherine Russell)

Put On that Dress (? feat. Katherine Russell again)

*Got Me a Woman

*Atlantic City (Thanks Levon

*Ashes of Love

*Did You Ever Love Me at All (?)

*Deep Elem

False Hearted Lover Blues

*I Aint Got No Home

*Anna Lee (feat Katherine Russell)

Rag Mama Rag

Into the Mystic (feat. Phoebe Snow)

Tossin' and Turnin' (feat Phoebe Snow, and CLARENCE CLEMONS!)

(I Dont Want To Hang Up my) R&R Shoes

Rain Down Tears

Shape Im In (Brian Mitchell, awesome feature of horns on down the line)

Tears of Rage

Chest Fever

I Shall Be Release (EVERYONE was up there)

The Weight (again with EVERYONE)

*Levon on Mandolin

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That setlist must have been from the Sat. night Swan. Pretty close to the Friday night one though - order is a bit different and they didn't play Atlantic City on Friday.

Shit, I totally forgot about Chest Fever!! Larry Campbell did a solid job on guitar of playing Garth's organ intro.

Ollabella did open but Amy Helm wasn't playing because she just had a baby. They only played 3 songs - seemed good but 3 songs wasn't long enough for me to get a true sense of who they were. They played Ripple which was nice!

Levon's autobiography is great! When I was reading it we got a cat - so I called him Levon. Found out after that the cat has the same birthday as Levon too!! CRAZY!!

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Here's a review from the NYT:



The Night They Drove Old Man Trouble Down


Published: March 10, 2008

Routes from the Appalachians, the bayou, Texas, Chicago, Memphis, New York and New Orleans converge at a geographically unlikely but historically proven nexus: Woodstock, N.Y., where Levon Helm has a home studio in a barn. Mr. Helm, 67, played drums and sang in the Band, which recorded “The Basement Tapes†with Bob Dylan and made its indelible debut album in neighboring West Saugerties, N.Y. He has been putting on monthly concerts in Woodstock called Midnight Rambles since 2005. At those shows, Mr. Helm leads a core band while friends drop in, and lately he has taken the idea on the road.

On Friday night, starting a two-night stand at the Beacon Theater, the Levon Helm Band’s show was a romping rock-R&B-country-blues revue. It had guitarists (Larry Campbell and Jimmy Vivino) who dispensed ragtime, blues-rock and more; a five-man horn section that played soul riffs and raucous traditional jazz; female singers representing country, soul and rock; and a repertory spanning a good stretch of the 20th century.

In a way, Mr. Helm was unraveling the strands of American music that he and the Band had entwined. Nearly all the songs were old, from the Band and from the Americana archives. And many were forlorn, whether they were honky-tonk weepers or jovial shuffles. They were bound by Mr. Helm’s stalwart yet flexible drumming and, often, his backwoods yowl of a voice, fully recovered from throat cancer. After more than two hours onstage — drumming, singing, playing mandolin — a grinning Mr. Helm stood up and did jumping jacks.

Mr. Helm’s drum kit was placed sideways on the band’s right flank, making all the subtlety of his playing visible. He had the bedrock timing and well-chosen patterns of a great roadhouse drummer, but was never mechanical. He chose whether each cymbal tap would ring or hiss, and he kicked verses toward choruses with a different syncopated flourish every time around.

He didn’t sing the whole set. Other band members took turns and so did guests including Phoebe Snow, belting high notes to please the crowd; she sang Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,†a song he recorded in Woodstock. Little Sammy Davis, in a derby hat, sang the blues and played harmonicas he pulled from pockets of his tuxedo. Teresa Williams brought a true country twang to songs like “Long Black Veil,†and Catherine Russell strutted through a song Marcia Ball has recorded, “Soulful Dress.â€

One Midnight Ramble regular was missing: Mr. Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm. She’s a member of the opening band, Ollabelle, but she just gave birth to his grandson, named Levon. (Her husband, Jay Collins, played saxophone in the horn section.)

Mr. Helm performed only a few songs from “Dirt Farmer†(Dirt Farmer Music/Vanguard), the Grammy-winning acoustic album he released last year. One was “Anna Lee,†a stark waltz about a mother’s death, accompanied only by Mr. Campbell’s fiddle and mountain-harmony vocals from Ms. Williams and Ms. Russell. But most of the set was upbeat, with the horns pumping up the party spirit. For the Levon Helm Band, the way to face trouble is with a clear gaze, a steady backbeat and an ornery voice

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