Greetings! What a week it’s been! It started last Sunday with Steve Earle at The Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, then the Love For Levon concert, Wednesday, at the IZOD Center, and just managed to make it to Blackberry Smoke at Irving Plaza, before collapsing in a heap at 8 o’clock in the morning yesterday! I think I need another day to recover!
All of these shows were just fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable! Steve Earle proved, once again, that he is a fully developed, well rounded artist, a renaissance man really! He does everything, he plays everything, and he’s done just about every style of music there is, even hip hop, at his first Bearsville Theater show a few years ago! Steve’s done rock and roll, bluegrass, and country, but at The Bardavon last week, he showcased his singer/ songwriter skills, just standing up and delivering one great song after the next, in a very simple, yet captivating style. Almost all of your favorites were there – “City of Immigrants”, “Guitar Town”, “Copperhead Road”, “Devil’s Right Hand”, “My Old Friend The Blues”, and so many more. He is the penultimate singer/songwriter, and singer/ songwriters everywhere should take note of this man to see how it’s done! My thanks to Lucy Edgcomb and Chris Silva at The Bardavon for their gracious hospitality in making this show possible.
Two quick days to recover, then down to the IZOD Center for the highlight of the week, the Love for Levon concert. This was such a special event! I wish you all could have been there. The vibe was pure love, and Levon’s spirit was everywhere! With all the huge stars in attendance, all egos were subjugated to the vibe, which really was love for Levon. Was there ever a more loved man on this planet than Levon? I doubt it! Here are some of the highlights.
John Prine delivered an amazing “When I Paint my Masterpiece” in his own inimitable style. When he left the stage, Garth Hudson grabbed John and shook his hand, and you couldn’t help notice that Garth and Prine seem like kindred spirits and two of a kind, two weird geniuses who appreciate each others artistry!
Then Jakob Dylan took the stage for a rockin’ “Ain’t Got a Home”, with the great Kenny Aronoff providing an unfailing backbeat on drums, later to be joined by Steve Jordan, the drummer of choice for Keith Richards! Kenny Aronoff AND Steve Jordan, playing together on one stage? Drum heaven! And it was very touching to see Jakob show up for Levon.
Larry Campbell introduced Lucinda Williams as “the very soulful Lucinda Williams”, and, boy, was she! Then Grace Potter turned a slow and haunting “I Shall Be Released” into a tour de force, showing off her powerful voice and Hammond organ skills. Grace is one of the best artists out there, and probably destined for super stardom. She is just amazing!
Garth reprised his “Chest Fever” intro on the Hammond, albeit a shorter version than the twenty minute intros he used to do with The Band, but that is something Garth has not done in recent memory!
Then the audience was privileged to hear Eric Church, who has one of the great Southern voices, kind of like Levon himself! Eric was a new discovery for me, and a most welcome one at that! I will definitely be checking him out, and you should too!
Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph were up next for “Up on Cripple Creek”. Joe’s incredible solo showed everyone why The Eagles snatched him up when they did!
Then it was Midnight Ramble veterans and huge Levon fans, My Morning Jacket, who’d already done a tribute to Levon at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. They opened with “Ophelia”, then right into “It Makes No Difference”, with a wailing sax solo from The Levon Helm Band’s Erik Lawrence, and finally closing their set with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with Roger Waters and G.E. Smith on guitar!
The finale, as always, was “The Weight”, with everyone up on the stage to take turns singing the verses. Garth was on piano, Gregg Allman, Roger Waters, and Larry Campbell on acoustic guitars, Warren Haynes, Jorma, John Mayer, Joe Walsh, G.E. Smith, and members of My Morning Jacket on electric guitars, Don Was and Byron Isaacs on stand up and electric bass, Kenny Aronoff and Justin from The Levon Helm band on drums, Steve Jordan on tambourine, solos by Garth and Robert Randolph, The Levon Helm Band’s horn section, verses of the song alternately sung by Amy Helm, Mavis Staples, Gregg Allman, Roger Waters, Dierks Bentley, and Eric Church, and Lucinda Williams, Grace Potter, Teresa Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Marc Cohen, Patty Griffin, Alan Toussaint, Jakob Dylan, John Prine, David Bromberg, and Bruce Hornsby on background vocals! Wow!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a great job The members of The Levon Helm Band did as the house band backing up everybody, and Larry Campbell and Don Was, who served as co-musical directors. Don also played stand up bass for most of the night, and what a night it was! If you weren’t there, you missed a great night to remember and cherish forever!
I saw cameras filming the whole night, so there may be a DVD in the works! For now, you can see a clip of the finale at www.levonhelm.com. I’m hoping to get a complete set list for the show, and if I do, I will post it with the blog, Tuesday night, on reservoirmusic.com, brooklyncowboys.com, and hvmusic.com.
Levon's Cake -- Photo by Dianne Rinaldi
With the last bit of energy I had, I drove to the city Friday night to see my favorite new band, Blackberry Smoke, and they did not disappoint. High energy Southern Rock n Roll is what these guys do, and they rocked the house! Judging by the enthusiasm and size of the audience, in New York City of all places, not to mention the playing and songwriting skills of this young band, I predict huge success for Blackberry Smoke! Check out their song, “I Can Feel a Good One Comin’ On”. Instant classic and radio hit! My thanks to David McTiernan from Shore Fire Media for arranging our credentials for this show. I felt a good one comin’ on, and I was absolutely right!
Before we get to this week’s live music picks, I want to hip you to an unbelievable annual free festival that happens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park every year about this time. It’s called the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and you can check out this year’s line up here – www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com. Conceived and subsidized by San Francisco venture capitalist, Warren Hellman, the festival has been held every year for the past twelve years. It is a completely free festival! There are no tickets, and the line up is about the best I’ve ever seen anywhere! There are no sponsors, no advertisements, and the entire event is subsidized by Hellman, who has endowed the event to continue without sponsorship for at least fifteen years past his death. Major corporations have repeatedly offered to underwrite this thing, but Hellman has always refused, preferring to keep it entirely free and non-commercial! This event draws more people than the entire population of San Francisco! Over a million people were expected to show up this year! This is something worth traveling to. Plan your vacations now for the first weekend in October, 2013!
And now, for this week’s live music picks.
I just want to leave you with this year’s nominees for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can find them at www.rollingstone.com, and for the first time ever, fans will be able to vote for their choices on the Rolling Stone website. Check it and see.
Have a great week.
Fred Perry is the owner of Reservoir Music Center on Route 28 in Kingston, and founding member of Alt-Country supergroup, The Brooklyn Cowboys, is from a 3rd generation musical family and lives in the Hudson Valley, where he does what he can to promote live music.