The audience was decidedly mature when some of Tucson's finest convened in front of the screen at the Loft Cinema to honor Martin Scorsese's concert movie The Last Waltz, which documents the swan song of The Band. There weren't many souls below the age of 30 in the crowd of about 250 classic-rock buffs. Which makes sense, though, seeing as the concert--at which The Band performed with guest stars such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris and others--came to pass exactly three decades ago this week.
The musicians performed tunes from the soundtrack, followed by a screening of a new 35-millimeter print of the film. Al Perry kicked things off with two choice tunes. The Band classic "Chest Fever" isn't even in the movie, but Perry's stripped-down interpretation--bass, drums and guitar only--was a treat. He also handily performed Young's "Helpless," to which some audience members added their own harmony vocals.
Some artists played only one tune, but almost every performance qualified as a highlight. Chris Holiman contributed an energetic "Mystery Train," and Randy McReynolds was more than up to "Further on up the Road." Tom Walbank ably growled the blues classics "Mannish Boy" and "Who Do You Love." The Ronstadt Brothers added excellent, country-style acoustic renditions of "Long Black Veil" and the iconic "The Weight," with sparkling three-part harmonies intact.
Van Christian kicked out the jams with "I Shall Be Released." The Sand Rubies (with drummer Bruce Halper on vocals) tackled last-minute covers of Neil Diamond's "Dry Your Eyes" and a shambling "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," both of which might have benefited from a couple more rehearsals.
Unfortunately, no one chose to do "Stage Fright," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Ophelia" or other faves from the film. The Last Waltz album does, after all, contain 30 songs.
Howe Gelb did a sweet job of closing the show. Accompanied by Rudy Ptacek (son of late Tucson musician Rainer) on drums and Walbank on harmonica, Gelb seemed genuinely tickled during playful performances of Dylan's "Forever Young" and Eric Von Schmidt's "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down," as well as an eccentric rendition of the instrumental "Theme From The Last Waltz," which opens and closes the movie.
Although the movie-theater setting felt unusual, the show was a delight.