Sold out crowd roared their approval of rock and roll legend Levon Helm and his 10 piece band
The sold out crowd at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival were treated last night to one of the living legends of rock and roll, Levon Helm and his band.
From the opening notes of The Shape I’m In to the crowd sing-along of The Weight, the audience ate up everything Levon and his band dished out.
Levon Helm is a rock and roll institution, both as a drummer and the edgy Arkansas accented singer. The crowd knew every song and kept the roaring up all night. There was electricity in the air.
Levon Helm is one of the few surviving members of The Band, who were known for their seminal roots rock. They were also the most famous of Bob Dylan’s touring bands at the time he went electric.
While hiding out with Dylan in Woodstock NY, The Band morphed from Ronnie Hawkins bar band to The Band. From that time came three great albums – The Basement Tapes, Music From the Big Pink and John Wesley Harding
The 71 year old quixotic drummer and singer recovered from throat cancer in 2009 and rested his voice most of the night, leaving the vocals to other band members like Larry Campbell.
iPhone video medley from Levon Helm in Fredericton
Despite a raw throat, Levon Helm did sing several songs, which are in the medley from YouTube.
The band had 11 members including drummer Helm. There was a 4 member horn section that allowed them to stray into Dixieland and swamp music.
Larry Campbell was Dylan’s lead guitar player on the Never Ending Tour from 1997 to 2004. He is a multi-instrumentalist and has played and recorded with artists like Sheryl Crowe, BB King and Willie Nelson.
Essentially Levon brought his Woodstock New York Midnight Ramble to Fredericton. This band and show that Helm hosts in Woodstock on Saturday nights is part rock and roll, part old time medicine show.
They played golden hits from The Band but they also did classics like Long Black Veil. Some of the songs last night were from Levon’s Grammy winning CDs Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt.
Levon never stopped smiling and drumming with fierce determination all night.
Update – He plays the back beat hard on the snare with the butt end of the drum stick while hold the shuffle or straight 8th down beat notes with his other stick, still mainly on the snare.
It always was a unique and driving style that is very evident in the video.
He was charming to the audience and seemed to be enjoying the music, despite his personal health issues.
A friend in our party said “I hope he’s up on that stage for the love of music because if he’s doing it for money looking that frail something is wrong.”
The band played joyful music, but how could you fail with a tuba, trombone, trumpet and two saxophone players. It was like being at the Mardi Gras.
Levon Helm and his band put the Fredericton crowd in a happy mood that lasted past 11 PM. It was one of the great nights of rock and roll music.
Melvin Seals & Jerry Garcia Band
Hammond B3 organist Melvin Seals led the Jerry Garcia Band to open the night.
The band was formed by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. The Jerry Garcia Band stays true to the Dead musical philosophy with improvisation and long jams. I loved it. They could take a groove and work it just like the Grateful Dead.
Listening to the Jerry Garcia song reminds you of being 18 again and having just smoked something your momma didn’t give you. After you drift back into paying attention you realize the band is still playing the same song ten minutes later.
As a Dylan fan, I thought their slowed down Positively 4th Street as awesome.
Disability Access at the Festival
The Festival management reacted to my email yesterday by constructing an inaccessible space behind the beer counter on grass and in the doorway where the wind and rain would get ya.
The well intentioned but misguided volunteer took umbrage that my wheelchair wouldn’t wheel on grass and that I didn’t want to be in the wind and rain.
The Festival needs to seriously re-work their ideas on disability access. While they tried to pretend it was the first time they had heard about a problem, the gentleman in the wheelchair from Wednesday night told me he has been trying to get them to provide a raised and accessible area.
Three people in the audience could see I was being blocked. The drove a wedge through the audience and deposited me at the front rail. It was a much better view and my wheelchair kept the crowd from crushing me. Thanks to them.