I had hoped to review Peter Gabriel’s latest album for today’s blitz, but I could not get a copy in time. So I decided to say a few words on one of my all-time favorite albums and movies, The Band and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz. Regarded by many as the greatest rock movie ever made (although I think that honor goes, just barely, to Stop Making Sense), The Last Waltz documents The Band’s historic farewell event held at the Winterland in San Francisco on Thanksgiving 1976. Directed by Scorsese, the film not only documents a great concert featuring many of the biggest names in rock, but also serves as a look back at the history of The Band that is at times funny, touching and sad.
First off, the newly restored film looks and sounds great. As the opening title says, “This film should be played loud.” The concert was shot like a film, unlike the vast majority of concert movies, and the myriad cameras allowed Scorsese to get inside the action. There are very few shots that show the audience – the idea is to immerse the viewer into the action on stage so you feel as if you are at the concert, rather than watching other people have a good time at the concert. This technique works well with the stage design, which has the feel of an antique store. There is nothing flashy here, no crazy light show, no swooping cameras. It feels real and looks great.
The Last Waltz is interspersed with Scorsese interviewing The Band about their long years on the road. They tell stories about long-gone roadhouses and old bluesmen. The scene with Rick Danko at the mixing board is particularly moving. They all come off as extremely weary and somewhat down. They look like they have seen it all, and they probably have. Powered by Sidelines