Warren Haynes Leads an All-Star Group Celebrating The Band and Their Legendary Final Performance
Following two memorable sold-out shows during last year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans, The Last Waltz 40 Tour, a celebration of the anniversary of the iconic final concert by The Band, is on the road now. The tour finds some of today’s top artists celebrating the music of the beloved band, and putting their own respectful touches on one of the most revered concerts in Rock and Roll history. Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers) and Don Was lead a star-studded group of musicians through some of the greatest songs ever.
Blackbird Presents got its start in 2012 with an All-Star Concert Celebration honoring the work of Johnny Cash in Austin, Texas. The response from that show led to other evenings celebrating musicians like Jerry Garcia, Gregg Allman, the Neville Brothers and John Lennon. The choice to put on a similar show for the Last Waltz was a logical next step. As Blackbird Presents CEO Keith Wortman explains, there are 3 basic criteria for selecting which artist they want to celebrate: “It has to be someone that Don Was and I both love, the artist has to have a body of work worth celebrating, and the artist has to be so beloved or influential that we can call up musicians and know that they will want to come out and play.” The Band, and the Last Waltz specifically, certainly meets those standards.
The Last Waltz anniversary shows in New Orleans surpassed all expectations, reviews were stellar, and fans and musicians alike were begging to see more of the show. A tour was the logical next step. Although there were other nights celebrating the anniversary of this seminal concert, this version was very special. While other shows were well-received, Wortman said, “with respect to other musicians, when we told people who we had in the band, they were impressed. And if you weren’t in New Orleans for the original shows, you had a friend that was there, or you read a review, and your interest is piqued. Then when you see the lineup for our tour, that’s what sets it apart. What
happened in New Orleans was so extraordinary, that the mythology has carried around the country”
Putting this show together was a true collaboration between Warren Haynes, Don Was and Wortman, from assembling the musicians to culling the set list. Though the Last Waltz was filled with guest stars, the all-star pedigree of the artists on stage eliminated that need in Wortman’s eyes: “Having Warren be a co-bandleader with Don, having incredible, iconic artists like Michael McDonald, Jamey Johnson: that covers it.” Although the show honors The Last Waltz, the set list veers somewhat and pays tribute to the whole history of The Band. Wortman explains that “we took the guts of the concert, but didn’t have to stay completely faithful to the original show. We added about 5 or 6 other songs that The Band did, that were beloved, but weren’t a part of The Last Waltz. One that comes to mind is Jamey Johnson singing “Georgia.” Not a ‘Last Waltz’ song, but The Band often covered it. When Jamey takes the stage to sing that song, people’s jaws dropped to the floor.”
Joining Haynes, Was, McDonald and Johnson on stage are Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk, keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Bob Margolin (who performed in the Last Waltz as a part of Muddy Waters’ band), Dave Malone of the Radiators, and Terence Higgins on drums. The horn section is lead by Mark Mullins of Bonerama, performing the arrangements of the late Allen Toussaint as heard in the Last Waltz 40 years ago.
The Last Waltz 40 comes to the NYCB Theatre In Westbury on Friday, February 3rd. For more information visit lastwaltz40tour.com. For more information on past and future All-Star Concert Celebrations visit blackbirdpresents.com