This past Monday evening The Marcus King Band brought their unique Four of a Kind – Live from Nashville streaming concert series to a close via a partial recreation of The Band‘s iconic The Last Waltz performance.
These past four weeks have seen King and his bandmates offer fans an eclectic selection of music that has included material from King’s solo record, El Dorado, cuts from the Marcus King Band’s early catalogue of recorded music, a litany of covers that may have been highlighted by King and Brent Hinds of Mastodon taking on the Black Sabbath classic, “Electric Funeral”, and of course the concert series’ swan song, The Last Waltz.
In total, King and company played 62 songs over the course of the four live streams, however, curiously enough just 15 percent of the material that ended up being performed in Nashville was ever put out on record by the Marcus King Band themselves.
Night one of the on-demand concert series saw King primarily recreate his critically well received solo debut, El Dorado. Night two of the Four of Kind live streams, in large part, turned out to be showcases for both the sublimely talented Maggie Rose as well as bluegrass legend in the making, Billy Strings.
Night three, appropriately dubbed “rock night”, was the only Four of Kind performance that actually featured an abundance of Marcus King Band music. Not only did “rock night” kind of well, rock, it also likely introduced many watching the performance to a bevy of early-career Marcus King Band music.
Here’s the thing though, whether you were an old school Marcus King Band fan, someone that only recently came across King’s music via his solo record, or just a soul that had heard from countless others that they needed to check King out for themselves, the Four of a Kind live streams had a little something for everyone.
This fact alone serves as an example of King’s genius as well as the out-of-the-box approach to the music industry he hasn’t been afraid to take, even if that path has been unconventional and littered with potential obstacles at times. The Four of Kind performances also proved in spades that the bountiful rewards King’s decisions yielded far outweighed any potential hazards that the Nashville-by-way-of-Greenville, SC musician may have wrestled with when he initially dreamed up the concept for the live streaming concert series.
As for the final night of Four of the Kind specifically, the evening turned out to have its own fair share of high points. However, please bear in mind the altitude that those high points reached may entirely be tied to how the individual at home personally felt about the songs King chose to lift and perform from The Last Waltz.
Monday night’s show only lasted just north of an hour and 20 minutes. Thus considering the time constraints it would have been impossible for King to play the nearly 40 songs that were featured in the 1978 The Last Waltz concert film.
King was joined on stage in Nashville on Monday by a series of special guests that included the likes of Devon Gilfillian, Jennifer Hartswick, Ida Mae, Elizabeth Cook, Sierra Elizabeth Ferrell, and Early James to perform what turned out to be 15 of the songs The Band played back in the winter of 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, CA.
King and company once again also invited Peter Levin, Rose, and Kate Barnette to join in on the concert series’ final evening, as all three had participated in two of the three previous Four of a Kind installments.
The first half of Monday night’s show featured a number of The Band’s own songs that included a fiery “The Shape I’m In”, where King traded guitar licks with the Nashville based Gilfillian and a delightfully charming take on “Stage Fright”, that saw Rose spread her vocal wings alongside King once again.
There were also a couple of noteworthy covers sprinkled throughout the first part of the live stream such as when King switched over to an acoustic guitar for a hypnotizing rendition of Neil Young‘s “Helpless”, as well as the band’s delicate rendition of the Bob Dylan classic, “I Shall Be Released”. The latter of the two featured soulful co-lead vocals by Marcus King Band horns player Justin Johnson in addition to the rich harmonies Rose and Kate Barnette provided that helped lift the song to an even loftier plateau.
Just for music history’s sake, it’s also worth noting that King’s take on “Helpless” included his use of a harmonica in a live setting for the first time in his entire career. This shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise to those who know King best as most of them are well aware that the budding Nashville legend is a well rounded musician who is no slouch when it comes to his acumen on other instruments such as the piano and the drums.
The only sour note that may have been struck during the first half of Monday night’s performance was perhaps when Nicki Bluhm jumped up on the stage in Nashville for a go at Joni Mitchell‘s, “Coyote”. First and foremost, the song didn’t work because of anything that Bluhm herself brought or didn’t bring to the track’s live performance.
Instead, because “Coyote” is essentially a somewhat confusing spoken word piece with backing music attached to it, Bluhm simply wasn’t left with much, if anything, to work with. Considering the immense vocal talent Bluhm possesses, “Coyote”, seemed like a lost opportunity for King to show the world why the songstress from Lafayette, CA is one this country’s most beloved up-and-coming female voices.
The final portion of The Last Waltz live stream was nothing short of exhilarating. Bo Didley‘s “Who Do You Love” was a raucous affair that saw King go and back-and-forth on guitar with Ida Mae’s incredibly talented guitarist and co-lead vocalist, Chris Turpin.
“Further on up the Road” and “Such a Night”, songs originally penned by the Bobby “Blue” Band and Dr. John respectively, were absolute monsters for the vocal and trumpet powerhouse known as Jennifer Hartswick. Her contributions on the evening should have left little doubt in anyone watching the live stream from home as to why she’s one of the most sought after music collaborators on the planet today.
The evening’s night of music and the Four of a Kind streaming concert series as whole came to end with covers of two of The Band’s most recognizable hits, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, that featured gut=wrenching emotional twists and turns via Early James and “The Weight” which saw most of the performers that had participated in the live stream series convene to bring the curtain down in Nashville one final time.
The Marcus King Band’s Four of a Kind concert series may have turned out to be the most interesting, well-thought out, and sublime live music experience that has occurred throughout the entire duration of this seemingly never ending global pandemic. King and the Four of a Kind performances also proved that despite the fact that we can no longer sway and sing along with one another inside the confines of sweaty, packed-to-the-gill music venues, we can still share with one another the joy and the love that music inherently provides to each and every last one of us.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what music is supposed to do anyway? I guess there’s nothing left to say except thank you Marcus. Thank you.
Scroll down to check out a gallery of photos from the Marcus King Band tribute to The Last Waltz, courtesy of the band.