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Published: 2007/02/20
by Dan Alford

The Band

Quick Picks:

WSP 9/20/06- Pleas > Low Spark > Climb > Low Spark
Wayne Shorter Quartet, Umea, Sweeden 06- The best band on the planet
GD, Cow Palace- The monster ‘Playing’ from Set I
STS9 31606- The killer first show in London
Phish, Headphone Jam- Another great long instrumental jam

*The Band, 8/1/73 Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ *

The opening ‘Back to Memphis’ declares this show a rocker right away,
with a boogie beat and a grand, lengthy organ jam late in the tune. The
instrumental work throughout the whole gig is raw and stunning and totally
thrilling, as with Robbie’s crackling opening licks to ‘Loving You’,
and their reprise in his solo thread at the very tale end of the song. Just at
the climax, he crests the wave and shines. There is no let up in the string
of classic hits, with a thumping rumble of a ‘Shape I’m In’ (complete
with a full band, no lead jam), ‘The Weight’, and ‘I Shall Be Released’.
A very cool and funky ‘Don’t Do It’ has more super bad guitar and a long,
indulgent jam. Levon just kills as he rides the cymbals through the first verse and
strips it down for the chorus. A constantly shifting tone shows just how
masterful a band The Band was. A slick interlude has low, growling bass and
organ noodles that pulse right on through the final chorus and rise up to
drive the finale.

Later, ‘Saved’, a fat little instrumental, grooving and bopping, opens
on a raging ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, and later still ‘Life is a Carnival’
stands as another apex, with a sweet bass intro checked by great drumming and calliope organ in the body. Garth and Robbie gun at each other, the
guitarist jabbing at obtuse angles and lighting the stage on fire.

The show ends with a thick, not too wild ‘Genetic Method’, with Garth
flooding space with sound, slipping into a little ‘Wooly Bully’ style
jam that begins to pulse and groan before dislocating and flaring up into a
driving ‘Chest Fever’, which brings it all home with high stepping majesty.

‘As my mind unweaves, I feel the freeze down in my knees’.

Danko and Manuel 12/13/85 Late Show

This mostly acoustic set from Rick and Richard is incredibly warm and
comforting, a hearty stew for a winter’s night. Danko’s whiskey voice just
glows through a fantastic set list including an opening ‘CC Rider’ and
a barroom boogie rendition of ‘Just Another Whistle Stop’. Manuel plays
perky, percussive piano through the hopping numbers and goes pensively
pained on ballads like ‘Unfaithful Servant’ and a gorgeously bittersweet
‘It Makes No Difference’. That tune is tainted by a real ugly guitar solo at
the end, followed by ‘See I don’t really play guitar,’ from Danko. Boots from The Band are few and far between, especially when quality is concerned,
and this recording is pristine and loaded with classics- kinda drunk and
totally blissed out. The set closing ‘Chest Fever’ will leave you smiling
for days.

*The Band- Live at Watkins Glen, Columbia 1995 *

This single disc is a rare find because it was never reissued after its
initial release. The reasons behind that fact are chronicled in great
detail on The Band’s website, but suffice it to say the living members
didn’t know it was being released, and many of songs including were likely
not recorded at the historic gig. Be all that as it may, the disc is filled
with incredible music impeccably recorded. A cover of ‘Back to Memphis’
opens the set with a serious punch and there is no ease to the action from
there. While there isn’t a sour note here, some of the tastiest meat is
right at the center of the disc- a gorgeous and joyous ‘Loving You Is
Sweeter Than Ever’, an organ solo supposedly performed by Garth during a
thunderstorm (the veracity of the story is questionable) called ‘Too Wet To
Work’ and a rare and infectious boogie of a ‘Don’t Ya Tell Henry’.
The disc closes with ‘Time to Kill’ and a short ‘Jam’ > ‘Cripple Creek’. I bought
this 12 years ago and have never stopped listening to it. It may be the
best release ever from The Band and is definitely required listening. Go
hunt it out, and don’t be dissuaded by uptight historians. If beautiful
music is what you’re after, look no further.

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