When all of the performers on the bill for Love For Levon took the stage for an encore performance of The Band’s signature song, ‘The Weight’, it was truly clear how special of a night everyone inside the IZOD Center experienced. Dozens of stars crammed onto the stage as thousands filled out the arena, to pay tribute and to remember the life of Levon Helm. Helm and his music have clearly had on impact on so many people, the amount of public tribute upon the announcement of his death earlier this year was nearly unparalleled in recent memory, and this was just another chance to gather around and enjoy the man’s music, this time with some very special friends.
Fresh collaborations and room for improvisation led for an action packed night, polished off with appearances from stars like Roger Waters and John Mayer that was just the icing on the cake. Starting with Warren Haynes and Gregg Allman, the musical bar was set high and no performances let down.
Larry Campbell, band leader of Helm’s touring band and frequent collaborator, acted as our host, and the house band was made up mostly of musicians from Helm’s legendary Midnight Rambles in Woodstock New York. Campbell announced that the band would be re-christened the Midnight Ramble Band as the group continues on the legacy of the Rambles. They remained on stage as a host of stars rotated in and out.
The first set slowly built up steam as original The Band keyboardist Garth Hudson added a keyboard intro to the Bob Dylan penned ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’. Jakob Dylan and Rami Jaffe, both of The Wallflowers jammed through ‘Aint Got No Home’, another song The Band covered live, while Phish’s Mike Gordon and guitarist John Hiatt closed the set with their take on ‘Rag Mama Rag’, The Band’s highest charting single.
After a brief intermission, the band returned and guests again started rotating on and off the stage. Grace Potter, who clearly loved the experience, appeared to perform another Dylan penned song, this time ‘I Shall Be Released. John Mayer took the rhythm parts on ‘I Shall Be Released’, ceding to Ray Lamontagne’s guitar for an awesome duet. Later on in the show, Mayer would take the lead on a cover of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Tennessee Jed’ which included an absolutely show stopping solo. The jamming continued as Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph took the stage to perform fan favorite ‘Up on Cripple Creek’, which featured extended jamming from Randolph on slide.
The Midnight Ramble Band left the stage as My Morning Jacket entered of perform what amounted to a mini-set. Their take on ‘Ophelia’ and ‘It Makes No Difference’ featured some top notch jamming and showed why so many people hold this band in such high regard. For the big surprise of the night, Roger Waters joined My Morning Jacket on stage for an extremely memorable take on ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. Waters replaced My Morning Jacket with Amy Helm, daughter of Levon, for a take on Levon’s solo tune ‘Wide River to Cross’.
The finale, as previously mentioned, saw all the previous performers take the stage for a group take on ‘The Weight’ It was the obvious and perfect song to end on, providing a fun, special sing a long for all involved. Robert Randolph absolutely crushed an extended solo on the slide, standing atop his chair and firing at all cylinders. Everyone, both on the stage and off seemed truly happy to be there, sharing in this moment, as the night finally came to a close. It was a special moment for a special man.
Set One: The Shape I’m In (Warren Haynes), Long Black Veil (Haynes and Gregg Allman), Trouble In Mind (Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff), This Wheel’s On Fire (Levon Helm Band w/ Shawn Pelton), Little Birds (Levon Helm Band), Listening To Levon (Marc Cohn), Move Along Train (Mavis Staples), Life Is A Carnival (Allen Toussaint and Jaimoe), When I Paint My Masterpiece (John Prine & Garth Hudson), Anna Lee (Bruce Hornsby), Ain’t Got No Home (Jakob Dylan and Rami Jaffee of Foo Fighters/Wallflowers), Whispering Pines (Lucinda Williams), Rag Mama Rag (Mike Gordon and John Hiatt)
Set Two: Don’t Do It (David Bromberg and Joan Osborne), I Shall Be Released (Grace Potter, Don Was and Matt Burr), Tears Of Rage (Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer), Rockin’ Chair (Dierks Bentley), Genetic Method (Garth Hudson) > Chest Fever (Dierks Bentley), A Train Robbery (Eric Church), Get Up Jake (Eric Church), Tennessee Jed (John Mayer), Up On Cripple Creek (Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph), Ophelia (My Morning Jacket), It Makes No Difference (My Morning Jacket), The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (My Morning Jacket and Roger Waters), Wide River To Cross (Amy Helm and Roger Waters), The Weight (Everyone)