Remembering Levon Helm: Live Cover Tribute Performances

By Andy Kahn Apr 19, 2016 10:02 am PDT

Levon Helm, the man behind the drumkit and singing lead vocals on many of The Band’s iconic songs, passed away at age 71 on this date four years ago. His southern-tinged singing voice was as distinctive as his exuberant drumming style and his importance to not only the success of The Band but to the development of rock music continues to this day. Helm was a one-of-a-kind Arkansan whose legacy thrives at his Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York and in the songs he left behind.

As we reported, in advance of today’s anniversary of Levon’s death, a note posted on his official Facebook page pondered, “Wouldn’t it be great if every musician who’s playing a gig this week performed a Levon Helm song & played it like there’s no tomorrow?”

In the days surrounding Helm’s passing four years ago, many artists chose to honor him with cover performances of classic The Band songs. While waiting to see if anyone takes up the recently posted request, in remembrance of the late great Levon Helm, below are some of the live tributes that occurred four years ago.

First is from The Allman Brothers Band’s appearance on April 20, 2012 at the Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida. The guest-filled performance saw members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band as well as the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir sit-in for a portion of the show that included a The Band covers sequence of “It Makes No Difference,” “Blind Willie McTell,” “The Weight” > “It Makes No Difference (Reprise).” Here’s video of “The Weight” > “It Makes No Difference (Reprise)” captured by McNastyShasta:

Next is from the night Helm died, when Umphrey’s McGee played a musical tribute at their show at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Guitarist Brendan Bayliss spoke about the importance of Helm and The Band ahead of UM’s performance of “Up On Cripple Creek.” Busted out for a performance with Huey Lewis at the Summer Camp Music Festival in 2011 for the first time since 2000, the Cain’s performance, captured by bustedface, was also the last time it was played by Umphrey’s, watch:

Also from April 19, the clip below features footage from the Bon Iver show at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. To begin the encore that night, Justin Vernon led his band through The Band’s “Ophelia.” Here’s video captured by Crystal W.:

The Black Keys were among the performers at the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival in Indio, California in 2012. Their set on April 20 featured special guest John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival joining them in covering “The Weight.” Watch official rehearsal footage followed by audience-shot video of the live performance captured by Anthony Cruz:

Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers were also at The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park for the Wanee Festival in 2012. Bruce dedicated a cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” to Levon before offering the touching tribute, watch video captured by dababe44:

Lastly, on April 19, the Warren Haynes Band performed “It Makes No Difference” > “The Weight” > “It Makes No Difference (Reprise)” in Charleston, South Carolina. The multi-song encore tribute was captured by drdeon and can be viewed below:

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