On Thanksgiving Day 1976, The Band put on The Last Waltz concert, with guests like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and many others. Martin Scorsese made a movie out of it. The show was a self-stylized farewell concert masterminded by guitarist/primary songwriter Robbie Robertson. In the ensuing years, the myth of the group all agreeing to retire in grand style would be capsized by bitter feelings amongst them. Drummer/singer Levon Helm was the most vocal in his distaste for the concept, and he put his words into action by playing live music tirelessly in later years, even as he battled cancer, until his death in 2012.
Nevertheless, The Last Waltz is filled with memorable music. On the Saturday after this Thanksgiving, a group of local musicians organized by Fergus Carey, Bryan Dilworth and Andrew Lipke will recreate the concert, to support the beleaguered students of Philly schools. The core band includes the likes of Jim Boggia, Pete Donnelly and Lipke. The Band’s own keyboard wizard Garth Hudson (pictured) will also perform. Ben Arnold, Wesley Stace and Joey Sweeney are just some of the other special guests.
Intrigue abounds: Will Jose Pistola’s owner Casey Parker don the Van Morrison spangled purple jumpsuit for “Caravan”? Will Fergie play up his slight resemblance to poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and recite his poem “Loud Prayer”? Who will recreate the concert’s most head-scratching moment, Neil Diamond’s performance of “Dry Your Eyes.” (The rumor is Martha Graham Cracker, and actually I think that song’s secretly awesome.)
Proceeds from the concert will benefit local organizations focused on education.
The Last Waltz Tribute, Sat., Nov. 30, 9 p.m., $20-$100, Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888, thetroc.com.
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