Tag Archives: Levon Helm

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Mavis Staples Proves Why She’s a Legend

May 12th, 2014

Mavis Staples – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 9, 2014

Mavis Staples – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 9, 2014
“This is gonna be a good one tonight!” announced Mavis Staples, after the enthusiastic Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd greeted her soulful rendition of “I Like the Things About Me” with rousing cheers on Friday night. The legendary gospel and soul singer and civil-rights activist began singing as a child in her family’s band, the Staple Singers, may be nearly 75 year old, but she still continues to create and perform music that resonates with fans across generations.

Onstage, Staples was indeed a force—her powerful voice rich with emotion on songs like “One True Vine,” from her 2013 Jeff Tweedy–produced album of the same name— punctuating certain lines with a nice, deep growl. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member also revisited hits spanning her fruitful career, giving a spirited and perfectly funky rendition of the ’70s Staple Singers hit “Let’s Do It Again,” and bringing out the night’s opener, Amy Helm (daughter of the Band’s Levon Helm), for a version of “The Weight,” which the Staple Singers performed with the Band for The Last Waltz. Staples and her band also treated the crowd to a version of the ’60s civil-rights anthem “Freedom Highway,” a song inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington.

Staples was rarely without a grin as she performed, enjoying the energy from the crowd and her band, playfully punching the guitarist’s arm and fist-bumping the drummer after impressive solos. And following a performance featuring decades of great music, Staples and Co. had one last song to revisit: “We’re gonna take ya’ll back down memory lane.” But then after scrutinizing the first few rows of the crowd, she jokingly added, “Ya’ll weren’t even born,” as the band launched into the undeniable hit “I’ll Take You There.” Despite what age or year audience members may have been introduced to Mavis Staples’ music, all in attendance would agree the singer is a true legend, sending the band off with joyful applause that the ever-humble Staples replied to with an smile and an appreciative “Shucks.” —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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Dawes Play Terminal 5 with Shovels & Rope Tomorrow Night

June 21st, 2013

Since forming in Southern California four years ago, the guys in Dawes—Taylor Goldsmith (vocals and guitar), Wylie Gelber (bass), Griffin Goldsmith (drums) and Tay Strathairn (keys)—have won over fans across the land with their high-energy live shows and three albums—North Hills, Nothing Is Wrong and this year’s Stories Don’t End (stream it below)—filled with tightly written songs, quality harmonies and some good old-fashioned guitar love. But one of the most interesting things about Dawes (above, doing “If I Wanted Someone” at last year’s Lollapalooza) is the vast array of bands and musicians with whom they’ve been associated. They’ve been compared to the Band, for their lyrics, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, for their harmonies. They’ve crisscrossed the country and teamed up with their musical brothers-in-arms, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit. And in the band’s infancy, they took part in jam sessions at Jonathan Wilson’s house with the likes of Chris Robinson, Benmont Tench and Conor Oberst. But after finding success, Dawes went on to back some of the biggest names in rock royalty, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty. Plus, at the most epic night of music The House List has ever had the privilege to witness, they inspired one of the loudest sing-alongs Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble had seen with their anthemic “When My Time Comes.” But, really, why are we telling you all this? So you don’t miss them with talented indie-folk duo Shovels & Rope tomorrow night at Terminal 5.

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Houndmouth Are a Band on the Rise

April 10th, 2013

Houndmouth—Zak Appleby, Shane Cody, Matt Myers and Katie Toupin—from the farmlands of Kentuckiana, formed by chance in late 2011. Their influences include the Band (“Levon Helm is my hero,” says Cody), David Bowie, Randy Newman and the Faces. And as such, they make a kind of music perhaps best categorized as y’alternative (the Venn diagram overlap of Americana, blues, folk and rock). The quartet’s debut full-length, From the Hills Below the City, arrives in June, but if their self-titled EP (stream it below) is any indication, Houndmouth (above, doing “Penitentiary” for Close Shave Music at last year’s Forecastle Festival) just might follow the path of such like-minded bands as the Lumineers and the Head and the Heart. See them tonight at Mercury Lounge.

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Two Americana Legends, One Night

February 22nd, 2013

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale – The Bowery Ballroom – February 21, 2013


The Bowery Ballroom had a couple of seasoned veterans on hand last night: Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. These guys aren’t just pros, but pro’s pros whose résumés include collaborations and projects with a who’s who of Americana giants. With the pedal steel and fiddle from band member Fats Kaplin permeating the set, “Buddy and Jim” mixed up a Cobb salad of Americana, from straight country tunes, like the opener, “I Lost My Job of Loving You,” to a zydeco take on the Johnnie and Jack standard “Down South in New Orleans.” Miller and Lauderdale complemented each other perfectly, like cousins whose reunions are filled with old stories, bad jokes and plenty of name-dropping.

The banter was either canned bits that felt ad-libbed or vice versa—one part Laurel and Hardy, two parts Doc and Merle. The relationship carried over into the music, their voices perfectly meshing whether in harmony, one backing the other, or trading verses between them. The set featured some superlative takes on standards, like George Jones’s “The Race Is On” and Jimmy McCracklin’s “The Wobble,” and material from their decades of work together and individually. The show felt like a story of the history of their ups and downs together, each song an anecdote in itself.

A third collaborator, Miller’s wife, Julie, was there in spirit, mentioned several times as a writer of, as it so happened, several of the stronger songs of the night, including a powerful “It Hurts Me.” But plenty of other friends found their way into the set, from Steve Earle, who was in the balcony as an audience member, to the departed Levon Helm, who had covered Miller’s “Wide River to Cross.” In the end, though, it was just Buddy and Jim (their names, the name of the band and the name of their new record, as they joked). Well into the set, it felt like they had enough material to go on forever, including the groovy honky-tonk of “Always on the Outside” and a bluesier “Vampire Girl,” off the new album—but eventually the fun had to end. The evening was summed up with “The Wobble,” dedicated to Earle, the audience in full-boogie mode, and Miller and Lauderdale finishing each other’s sentences like the pros they are. —A. Stein

 

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Such a Night

October 4th, 2012

Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012


Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.

There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”

And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.

The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn

October 2nd, 2012

Sometimes you want to see an all-star lineup of musicians performing together, and other times you want to support a great cause. But with tomorrow’s Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn at the Izod Center, you can actually do both. American icon Levon Helm may be gone, but his musical legacy and studio, home to the Midnight Ramble, remain. And so we’re all trying to pay off the barn together. The star-studded Love for Levon lineup includes Roger Waters (who counts the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap Helm gave him among his most treasured possessions), My Morning Jacket, Gregg Allman, Garth Hudson, Joe Walsh, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint and John Prine—plus a host of others, and maybe even some surprises, too. This is most certainly one not to miss.

(Want to go to the show, but don’t know how to get there? Rocks Off NYC is running a bus to and from the show.)

 

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Levon Helm Band – The Wellmont Theatre – February 11, 2011

February 14th, 2011

Levon Helm Band - The Wellmont Theatre - February 11, 2011

Photos courtesy of Andy Keilen | spartanmarchingband.smugmug.com/Music

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Two Nights of the Levon Helm Band This Weekend

November 24th, 2010


Levon Helm is a member of rock royalty. He grew up in Arkansas but headed to Canada after high school to join rockabilly-star Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks. Eventually he played alongside Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson before those five struck out on their own. By the mid-’60s, Bob Dylan was looking to go electric and he decided the Hawks were the perfect musicians to accompany him. While Dylan’s plugged-in takes on his folk classics would eventually gain widespread acclaim, it certainly didn’t happen overnight. As the audience’s booing and catcalls intensified, Helm decided to leave the band rather than face that negativity night after night.

In the meantime, Dylan and the Hawks headed to Europe and then to Woodstock after Dylan had a disastrous motorcycle accident there. While they were in upstate New York, they recorded a slew of material—eventually released as The Basement Tapes—at Danko, Hudson and Manuel’s house, affectionately known as Big Pink, in West Saugerties, N.Y. With things going so well musically, Danko invited Helm to rejoin them and write their own music, and somewhere along the way the band became the Band. They toured and released seven studio albums—including their spectacular debut, Music from Big Pink, and their fantastic sophomore effort, The Band—and one of the greatest live albums ever, Rock of Ages.

With their supreme musicianship, vivid storytelling and three of the finest voices (Danko’s, Helm’s and Manuel’s) in the history of recorded music, the Band went on to influence countless musicians and songwriters, and their songs, including “The Weight,” “Ophelia,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” are an enduring part of the rock canon. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. And so the Band closed up shop at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day 1976. It was, quite literally, The Last Waltz.

Following the Band’s breakup, Helm toured and recorded music and dabbled in acting, appearing in Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Right Stuff and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada among others. And after a successful but costly bout with throat cancer, he began to stage monthly Midnight Rambles at his home studio in Woodstock. Helm sings, entertains and plays the drums and mandolin, accompanied by an all-world backing band of his own, led by sideman extraordinaire Larry Campbell and Helm’s daughter, Amy. And if that weren’t enough, Helm has even put out two new albums, the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, since 2007. But here’s the best part: Levon Helm (above, playing “Ophelia” on PBS) is bringing his Ramble to the Beacon Theatre on Friday, with Steve Earle, and Saturday, with Bettye LaVette. Do your best to make it there. But be warned that your face will hurt the next day from smiling so much the night before. —R. Zizmor

And He Shall Be Levon

January 8th, 2010

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Levon Helm is a national treasure. As the backbone and one of the main voices of the Band, he’s played an integral part in American music for more than 40 years. Despite a bout with throat cancer, he’s persevered and has even begun recording music again—releasing two new albums since 2007—and hosting Midnight Rambles at his home studio in Woodstock. (And unless you’re getting married or having a child that day, there’s no better way to spend a Saturday night.) He had a minor setback, needing throat surgery in August, and hasn’t been allowed to sing much since then. But while his distinctive lion’s growl of a voice has been temporarily quieted, Levon Helm can still play the drums like a motherfucker.

Last night, before a captive Terminal 5 audience, Helm, backed by 11 remarkably talented musicians—including special guest Donald Fagen—started off hot with the Band’s ode to Richard Manuel, “The Shape I’m In.” After dabbling in some sweet NOLA music (“Let’s go to New Orleans for a little bit,” said Larry Campbell, frontman of this band and long-time sideman for Bob Dylan), Teresa Williams, Campbell’s wife, and Amy Helm, Levon’s daughter, dueted on an elegant take on “Long Black Veil.” Levon then stepped from behind the kit to take a stool at center stage and played the mandolin on a terrific, horns-backed “Deep Elem Blues,” which drew loud applause from the crowd.

But what really got the audience excited was when Levon sang the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” his voice sounding much stronger than anyone had expected. Following a full-band take on “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and Steely Dan’s “Black Friday,” led by Fagen’s soulful voice, the Levon Helm Band turned to the Band: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come),” “It Makes No Difference” (the greatest break-up song ever), hauntingly sung by Williams and Amy Helm, and then “Chest Fever,” with Campbell playing Garth Hudson’s long organ intro on his Strat. They closed with “The Weight,” with Levon boisterously singing “Well, Luke my friend” to rousing applause. The show could’ve ended right there, but the band came back out for one more, “I Shall Be Released,” and they killed it. Levon, bowing and blowing kisses to the crowd, then waved a white towel and headed offstage. And we stepped out into the night, smiling all the way. —R. Zizmor

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A Music Icon Comes to Terminal 5

January 6th, 2010


Levon Helm is a member of rock royalty. He grew up in Arkansas but headed to Canada after high school to join rockabilly-star Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks. Eventually he played alongside Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson before those five struck out on their own. By the mid-’60s, Bob Dylan was looking to go electric and he decided the Hawks were the perfect musicians to accompany him. While Dylan’s plugged-in takes on his folk classics would eventually gain widespread acclaim, it certainly didn’t happen overnight. As the audience’s booing and catcalls intensified, Helm decided to leave the band rather than face that negativity night after night.

In the meantime, Dylan and the Hawks headed to Europe and then to Woodstock after Dylan had a disastrous motorcycle accident there. While they were in upstate New York, they recorded a slew of material—eventually released as The Basement Tapes—at Danko, Hudson and Manuel’s house, affectionately known as Big Pink, in West Saugerties, N.Y. With things going so well musically, Danko invited Helm (playing “The Weight,” above, on PBS) to rejoin them and write their own music, and somewhere along the way the band became the Band. They toured and released seven studio albums—including their spectacular debut, Music from Big Pink, and their fantastic sophomore effort, The Band—and one of the greatest live albums ever, Rock of Ages.

With their supreme musicianship, vivid storytelling and three of the finest voices (Danko’s, Helm’s and Manuel’s) in the history of recorded music, the Band went on to influence countless musicians and songwriters, and their songs, including “The Weight,” “Ophelia,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” are an enduring part of the rock canon. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. And so the Band closed up shop at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day 1976. It was, quite literally, The Last Waltz.

Following the Band’s breakup, Helm toured and recorded music and dabbled in acting, appearing in Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Right Stuff and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada among others. And after a successful but costly bout with throat cancer, he began to stage monthly Midnight Rambles at his home studio in Woodstock. Helm sings, entertains and plays the drums and mandolin, accompanied by an all-world backing band of his own, led by sideman extraordinaire Larry Campbell and Helm’s daughter, Amy. And if that weren’t enough, Helm has even put out two new albums, the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, since 2007. But here’s the best part: Levon Helm is bringing his Ramble on the road—with special guest Donald Fagen of Steely Dan—to Terminal 5 this Thursday. Do your best to make it there. But be warned that your face will hurt on Friday from smiling so much the night before. —R. Zizmor