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Wick's Review

Created Jun 06, 2015 11:10PM PST • Edited Mar 10, 2018 01:09PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Turn it up! I’d done just that right before an opening title card instructed “This film should be played loud!” You don’t say. Clapton, Van Morrison, Dylan, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, the Band: Of course turn it up.

    The Last Waltz has been lauded as a landmark concert film since it appeared in the late Seventies. Oddly enough, it’s taken me 40 years to experience it, but now that the wait is over I agree that the acclaim was well deserved, still is all these decades later. The Band were ideally suited to convene an elegy for the shaggy era of rock, being backers of superstars and headliners themselves during the Sixties and Seventies.

    Those big, big stars convened for their retirement concert, deftly directed by Martin Scorsese. Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, the Staple Singers and several other stars joined the transcendent names listed above.

    Scorsese knit it all together with interviews and other behind-the-scenes peeks. The Band’s principle songwriter and lead guitarist Robbie Robertson is seen and heard from the most, a fact that apparently ruffled feathers with his fellow members. However, Robertson is a laconically engaging narrator who looks like a cute Mick Jagger and has famously cool cigarette moves. Thus Scorsese made a good choice.

    Beyond the stellar and moving concert, the currents of Sixties rock emerge from the history of the Band. For instance, it’s notable that they include music-hall as one of their influences, which is then reflected in the music-hall stylings of the Theme from the Last Waltz that plays over the opening and closing credits. It doesn’t seem like something they would create, at first blush. But the reveal at the end shows the Band playing it. Such wide ranging interests are characteristic of the Beat-derived culture they embodied.

    All-star concert spectaculars have long since become cliche. But they weren’t then, especially this one. Thus The Last Waltz will be treasured for a long time more, a lasting artifact of a golden era of pop music.

  3. Perfect 5.0
    The Band

    They were adept at playing their own songs and other people’s songs, so it’s a treat watching them do both. It’s also a kick seeing their hair in classic shags from the Seventies. Most imporantly, they were a band with multiple singers, influences and variety of instruments, giving their music a unique level of versatility.

    • Rick Danko – Bass & Violin & Vocal
    • Robbie Robertson – Lead Guitar & Vocal
    • Richard Manuel – Piano / Keyboards / Drums / Vocal
    • Levon Helm – Drums / Mandolin / Vocal
    • Garth Hudson – Organ / Accordion / Saxophone / Synthesizers
    Notable Guests
    • Ronnie Hawkins, the guy who got the Band together, on Who Do You Love
    • Dr. John on Such a Night
    • Neil Young on Helpless, my favorite Neil song
    • The Staple Singers backing the Band on The Weight – very affecting
    • Neil Diamond
    • Joni Mitchell on Coyote and backing vocals on Helpless
    • Muddy Waters on Mannish Boy
    • Eric Clapton on Further on Down the Road
    • Emmylou Harris on Evangeline
    • Van Morrison on Caravan
    • Lawrence Ferlinghetti reciting a beat poem.
    • Bob Dylan on Forever Young and I Shall Be Released
    • Martin Scorsese as an interviewer
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    The Last Waltz triggers lots of smiles, e.g., when Clapton and Robertson trade leads on Further on Down the Road. For classic rock fans, this is a deeply satisfying concert film.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Perfect 5.0
  11. Music Perfect 5.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.4
  15. Sex Innocent 1.5
  16. Violence Gentle 1.0
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.7
  18. Natural 1.0

    As an iconic roots band, country was another tributary that flowed into the Band’s mighty rock ‘n’ roll river.

    Musical influences aside, The Last Waltz includes some jarring juxtapositions as seen through a hypersensitive 21st century lens. For instance, the fellows share thoughts about girls on the road right before inviting Joni Mitchell on stage. Another is them getting interviewed under a Confederate flag. Shortly thereafter they’re seen on stage with Muddy Waters.

  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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