Film Reviews

The Last Waltz – Blu-Ray Review

Although never mentioned in the same breath as the likes of The Beatles or Rolling Stones, The Band’s compelling mix of roots, Americana, folk and country rock certainly made its mark. It led to them picking up plenty of fans and admirers on their journey; and this release from Eureka Entertainment proves that very much to be a fact.

The Last Waltz, originally billed as The Band’s final show, is as much a celebration of great music as it is a farewell concert. Add in Martin Scorsese‘s epic vision and you have not just a legendary gig, but something that has gone down in rock history and described by some as “the greatest rock concert movie ever made” – or has just been called simply “the greatest rock movie, period” by others.

Originally released in 1978, it starts with the words “This Film Should Be Played Loud!” to give you an idea of what to expect. This advice is definitely sound and much appreciated when watching the concert clips and songs. But more about those later. What sets this apart from other concert releases is Scorsese’s interviews with the band in between the set list from the show. Shot at a different time to the gig, members of The Band talk about life on the road as a touring band and share stories about their travels, the places they have played and the people they have met. Their experiences both good and bad. These moments give a really good insight into the touring life and how difficult a life it can be at times.

Vocalist/lead guitarist Robbie Robertson being the most open about how they wouldn’t survive twenty years on the road and how this lifestyle has already taken some of their/our heroes, including Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin. It’s these moments that make The Last Waltz the classic rock concert movie it is. Away from all the good times, great songs and amazing musicians that we see onstage at the show, hearing The Bands ups and downs from their time on the road delivered in an often open and relaxed manner is a joy to watch and makes you appreciate this hardworking bands dedication, humbleness and talent whenever we do watch the songs from the epic farewell concert.

The concert itself is a truly uplifting experience and something of a lesson in great song writing. Performed at Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day, 1976,  if The Band and their songs weren’t enough to whet your appetite then the list of special guests during the opening credits could well have jaws on the floor for first time watchers of The Last Waltz: Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood and more join the band for a performance on each of The Band’s, as well as their own, songs.

Of course, with this much quality on offer it’s difficult to pick a favourite but Ronnie Hawkins joining The Band for a run through of his bluesy, piano led number, ‘Who Do You Love?’, guitar god Eric Clapton tearing it up with the lads on ‘Further on Up The Road’, ‘Caravan’ by Van Morrison and the tracks involving Bob Dylan including ‘Baby, Let Me Follow you Down’ and ‘Forever Young’ are among the highlights.

The Band themselves are on fire with every member giving their all as the guest musician complements the band, and the song, to take it up to another level. But The Band themselves are so much more than their legendary special guests, as a brilliant early run through ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ proves and, in particular, the aforementioned singer/guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer/vocalist Levon Helm are clearly virtuoso’s on their chosen instruments.

But when the entire ensemble of guest musicians unite for a run through of Bob Dylan’s classic, ‘I Shall Be Released’, it is a heart-warming and smile inducing moment to see these legends alongside one another, performing one of their peers most beloved songs to a clearly captivated and overjoyed audience, giving a spine-tingling end to this classic concert that started as a farewell show but ended as a celebration of music in it’s purest form.

EXTRAS: Extras for this release include ‘Revisiting The Last Waltz’; a documentary on the making of the film which shows Scorsese’s dedication to the project and the lengths he went to to get the perfect concert film for one of his favourite bands. An archival outtake featuring some of the guests jamming onstage during the show. This is the first time this footage has been made available. Stills Galleries with still pictures from the concert, studios, the New York premiere and posters and lobby cards for the show to.

A TV spot, the original theatrical trailer and audio commentaries featuring Scorsese, Robbie Robertson, The Band and more. There is also a limited edition Hardbound Case set with a 100-page collector’s book (3000 copies only). A must for music fans everywhere.

The Last Waltz is now available from Eureka Entertainment.

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