It is hard to imagine this stellar line-up playing now so casually and close to the crowd; this film captures the era as much as The Band's final hour.
“The Band” may be a generic name for a group of musicians, but it captures something of their supporting role in a key age of rock and roll. Bob Dylan’s backing band and writers of tracks that most people know, such as “The Night they Drove Ole’ Dixie Down,” they were classic “musicians’ musicians.”
Essentially concert footage interspersed with candid offstage interviews and a few extra songs played on a studio set, Martin Scorsese’s documentary of their final show now makes its UK Blu-ray début.
At one point, drummer /vocalist Levon Helm tells of how the middle of America is a musical melting point, where country, bluegrass, gospel and blues all come together. Asked by Scorsese what it’s called, he says, “Rock and roll.”
These genres all play their part in the film. There is one flowing sequence of a Paul Butterfield track, followed by a return by Muddy Waters playing harp, followed again by a blues piece featuring Eric Clapton.
While it may not be “the greatest rock concert movie ever made,” as sometimes billed, it may well be one of the greatest concert line-ups ever filmed: Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Joni Mitchell – as well as a couple of lesser Beatles and Stones – also appear. This conveyor belt of musos ensures that interest never sags (at least, after Dr. John).
The show also benefits from avoiding the obvious, with Neil Diamond, for example, playing a very fine "Dry Your Eyes" as opposed to, say, "Daydream Believer."
It is hard to imagine that line-up playing now so casually and close to the crowd; this film captures the era as much as the final hour.
As a side-note, The Staples, Emmylou Harris, Dylan – and Scorsese himself – all were or later became (I understand) people of faith.
This is an honest movie that concentrates on the faces of players enjoying working with each other and celebrating the culmination of their joint career.
Extras include a fascinating 22 minute retrospective feature based around interviews with Scorsese and bandleader Robbie Robertson, and the only remaining archival footage of a bluesy jam played during the day.
There are two audio commentaries: one with technical and logistical information from Scorsese and more musical and anecdotal offerings from Robertson. A second audio commentary comes from a phenomenal wealth of people, including press, band and management (with sub-titles to identify who is talking) giving highly authorative and enlightening comments. The limited edition of 3,000 also comes in a hardbound case with a 100 page book.