Levon Helm Band :: 06.28.07 :: SummerStage :: New York, NY
The forecast called for heavy thunderstorms, but that couldn’t keep fans away from Central Park for legendary music icon and founding member of The Band, Levon Helm and his all-star band. On this special night, Helm’s constant ear-to-ear smile was contagious as the rain fell. The wet, mainly older crowd sang along nostalgically with one of the most recognizable voices from the soundtrack of their youth.
It was a great privilege to witness Helm playing his drums and mandolin again, singing the verses from such classics as “Rag Mama Rag,” “Ophelia” and “The Weight.” The joy in watching Helm perform was not only due to his incredible catalog of music, but because Helm has been on the comeback trail. Helm is a survivor of throat cancer, which plagued him in 1996 and threatened to put an end to his career.
It was with a gentle push from friends and regular Midnight Ramble guitarists Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Phil Lesh & Friends), and Jimmy Vivino (Max Weinberg 7, The Fab Faux) that Helm was finally convinced to bring the Ramble to NYC for two sold out shows at the Beacon Theatre this past March. It was a huge success. It proved to Helm that he was indeed back and ready to “Ramble” in front of a large audience.
06.28 :: NYC
Helm’s band was anchored by the guitar duo of Campbell and Vivino, who compliment each other beautifully. Stand-up bassist Mike Merritt (Johnny Copeland) was joined by two keyboard players, a percussionist and a four-piece horn section. The background vocals had the amazing combination of Amy Helm, Teresa Williams and Fiona McBain. All three talented women stepped up to take nice lead vocal turns throughout the show.
Crowd pleasers came early with “Ophelia” and “Rag Mama Rag,” as well as a great version of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” and a rocking “Shape I’m In.” It was hard not to think about Helm’s former bandmates who have passed on, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, especially during “Shape.”
In his signature bright blue suit, Little Sammy Davis joined the fun, taking center stage for some classic blues vocals and harmonica, midway through the set.
The highlight of the evening was the massive New York Central Park sing-along to “The Weight.” It was a great way to close the show before the encore. To hear the legendary Levon Helm sing that song so beautifully and smile so widely was beyond special. With any luck Helm will take his Midnight Ramble to your town. Or if you’re ever in Woodstock on a Saturday night around midnight, drop by the barn and take in the jams.
JamBase | NYC
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