All-Star Cast of Musicians Show Love For Levon

If the afterlife works in a way that’s fair and just, Levon Helm and his old pals Rick Danko and Richard Manuel were looking down on the impressive roster of talented musicians lined up for the Love For Levon concert at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey paying tribute to their music and were smiling proudly. After The Last Waltz the members of The Band never received the accolades they deserved as the post-Robbie Robertson incarnation of the group played small clubs and bars. Sadly, it took Helm’s passing to get the music of The Band back in an arena. But enough of the sappy stuff, let’s talk about what a magical night of music took place in the swamps of New Jersey.

[Photo by Jeremy Gordon]

The setlist for the two sets of Love For Levon were composed of tunes from The Band’s catalog, the group’s live repertoire and Helm’s solo career with the exception of Marc Cohn’s gorgeous 2007 original Listening To Levon. An all-star cast of musicians were backed by a house band that featured the members of the Levon Helm Band along with famed producer Don Was on bass and in-demand session drummer Kenny Aronoff. My Morning Jacket took the stage without the house band, though the Levon Helm Band horns stuck around for MMJ’s three songs.

Garth Hudson made a few appearances and The Band keyboardist received the biggest ovations of the night – a fitting tribute to the only original member of the group on the bill. A brief intermission broke up two lengthy sets and there was no encore, though nearly every performer from the evening sat in on the closing The Weight. Here’s a look at the setlist from Love For Levon…

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)

We’ll break down the show in song-by-song format with videos…

The Shape I’m In

Lineup: Core house band (Don Was, Larry Campbell, Amy Helm, Teresa Williams, Kenny Aronoff and Brian Mitchell) with horns, sung by Warren Haynes
Guest’s Connection To Levon: Haynes has collaborated with Helm many times including at his own Mountain Jam in 2008 and again in 2010 for what was billed as a 70th Birthday Celebration for Levon
Original: The Band – Stagefright (1970)
The Skinny: Haynes is very familiar with the tune as it’s a part of Gov’t Mule’s live repertoire. Mule recorded a version of Shape I’m In for the 2007 The Band tribute album Endless Highway. Warren took the opportunity to deliver a brief but powerful solo.

Long Black Veil

Lineup: Core house band with Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Gregg’s Allman Brothers Band were on the bill with The Band at Watkins Glen in 1973. Levon sat in with the Allmans at the Beacon in 2009.
Original: Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill song covered by thousands of artists including The Band who put it on their debut album – Music From Big Pink. This was one of the first songs Gregg Allman ever learned on guitar.
The Skinny: Pretty version with Gregg nailing the lyrics and playing guitar

[House Band Bassist and Co-Musical Director Don Was]

Trouble In Mind

Lineup: Core house band with Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Jorma toured with Levon in the ’80s and recorded his 2009 River of Time album and Hot Tuna’s 2011 release Steady as She Goes at Levon Helm Studios.
Original: Penned by Richard M. Jones, Levon played drums on the version found on Kaukonen’s River of Time LP
The Skinny: Mitterhoff played mando while Jorma delivered the heart-felt lyrics

This Wheel’s On Fire

Lineup: the Levon Helm Band, aka Midnight Ramble Band (Jim Weider, Larry Campbell, Amy Helm, Teresa Williams, Byron Isaacs, Justin Guip, Brian Mitchell, Jim Weider) with Shawn Pelton on drums
Guest’s Connection to Levon: A chance for Levon’s band to shine
Original: Written by Bob Dylan and The Band’s Rick Danko, it was recorded as part of The Basement Tapes and was featured on Music From Big Pink (w/o Dylan)
The Skinny: Larry Campbell has the perfect voice for this tune and it showed

[House Band Drummer Kenny Aronoff]

Little Birds

Lineup: The Levon Helm Band, aka Midnight Ramble Band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: The spotlight turned to Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, who sang the tune
Original: Taught to Levon by his dad, this song was played by The Band at their first show was was later released on 2007′s Dirt Farmer
The Skinny: Amy did her father and grandfather proud

Listening To Levon

Lineup: Marc Cohn with the Levon Helm Band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: A huge fan of Helm who appeared at a Ramble in 2011
Original: A Cohn original from 2007

Move Along Train

Lineup: Mavis Staples with the Levon Helm Band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Mavis appeared at a 2011 Ramble and was supposed to perform with the Levon Helm Band at this year’s Jazz Fest. Staples also sat in with The Band at The Last Waltz.
Original: Recorded by The Staple Singers and then by Helm for 2009′s Electric Dirt
The Skinny: The crowd came alive as Mavis belted this one

[Ray LaMontagne]

Life Is A Carnival

Lineup: Allen Toussaint on keyboards and vocals, Jaimoe on drums with the Levon Helm Band and horns
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Toussaint wrote horn arrangements for many The Band classics for the Rock of Ages shows, while Jaimoe’s Allman Brothers Band was on the bill with The Band at 1973′s Watkins Glen Festival
Original: Written by Helm, Danko and Robertson for The Band’s 1971 Cahoots album
The Skinny: Toussaint owned this song backed on vocals by Campbell and Byron Isaacs.

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Lineup: John Prine, Garth Hudson and the Levon Helm Band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Helm considered Prine one of his favorite musicians. Prine teamed up with The Levon Helm Band for a co-bill at Red Rocks in 2009.
Original: Written by Dylan and released by The Band on 1971′s Cahoots
The Skinny: Hudson got a huge hand when Campbell introduced him and Prine’s unusual vocal delivery worked well

Anna Lee

Lineup: Bruce Hornsby, Larry Campbell, Amy Helm and Teresa Williams
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Hornsby was good friends with Levon going back to 1985. Helm appeared in the video for Bruce’s Look Out Any Window
Original: Penned by Laurelyn Dossett, Anna Lee appeared on 2007′s Dirt Farmer LP. Hornsby performed the tune with The Levon Helm Band at Merlefest and has taken to covering the tune at recent concerts.
The Skinny: Bruce came out to “Bruuuuuuuuuuce” chants and played a stirring version of the tune on dulcimer along with just a trio of Levon Band members

Ain’t Got No Home

Lineup: Jakob Dylan, Rami Jaffee and the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Jakob’s dad Bob was backed by The Band in the ’60s and 1974
Original: Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s signature song was recorded by The Band for 1973′s Moondog Matinee
The Skinny: Dylan’s raw gusty vocals fit the swinging arrangement just perfectly


[Jakob Dylan]

Whispering Pines

Lineup: Lucinda Williams and the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Helm had lots of respect for Lucinda and the pair finally teamed up for a pair of shows in Toronto back in 2011
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel for 1969′s The Band (Brown Album)
The Skinny: Known as Manuel’s signature song, Williams’ hit all the extremely high notes with ease

Rag Mama Rag

Lineup: Mike Gordon and John Hiatt with the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Gordon appeared and visited past Midnight Rambles and spoke to The Band’s influence just after Levon’s death, while Hiatt teamed up with The Levon Helm Band for a performance at the Chicago area shed Ravinia in 2010 and later at the show which was released as Ramble at the Ryman.
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson for 1969′s The Band (Brown Album)
The Skinny: Gordon crushed the bass parts and Hiatt gave the song “the squeak” it needed, though the tempo was a bit weird

[Mike Gordon and John Prine w/ House Band]

Don’t Do It

Lineup: David Bromberg and Joan Osborne with the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Helm performed on Bromberg’s 2011 Use Me LP, while Bromberg sat in with the Levon Helm Band at the Philadelphia Folk Festival that same year. Amy Helm has enlisted Joan Osborne to sing on her forthcoming solo album and the pair recently performed at NYC’s City Winery.
Original: Written by Holland/Dozier/Holland, the song was popularized by Marvin Gaye before The Band made it their own and a signature of their live shows
The Skinny: Bromberg’s voice simulated the deep howl that Levon used on The Band’s live versions while Osborne lit into the high notes creating an interesting contrast

I Shall Be Released

Lineup: Grace Potter with Don Was and Matt Burr
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals performed with the Levon Helm Band at a 2010 Midnight Ramble
Original: Written by Bob Dylan and released by The Band on their 1968 debut album Music From Big Pink
The Skinny: An interesting and unusual organ-heavy arrangement that fit Grace like a glove. A clear highlight of the evening

[Grace Potter]

Tears Of Rage

Lineup: Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer with the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Helm was a huge fan of Ray’s and they teamed up for an eight-show tour. Ray sat in with the Levon Helm Band numerous times. Mayer performed with Helm at a 2007 Parkinson’s benefit.
Original: Written by Bob Dylan and Richard Manuel and recorded by The Band for their 1968 debut Music From Big Pink
The Skinny: Another highlight from perhaps the best segment of the show, LaMontagne sang Richard Manuel’s part like he was born to sing the song. Meanwhile, Mayer offered tasteful licks out of the Robbie Robertson collection of tasteful licks

Rockin’ Chair

Lineup: Dierks Bentley, Jon Randall and Jessi Alexander with the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Country star was influenced heavily by Levon Helm and the music of The Band
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson and released by The Band on 1969′s self-titled album (The Brown Album).
The Skinny: Bentley brought two friends from Nashville and vocal-wise they were spot-on, though the tempo and arrangement seemed weird

Genetic Method > Chest Fever

Lineup: Dierks Bentley, Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander and Garth Hudson with the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Country star was influenced heavily by Levon Helm and the music of The Band
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson and released on 1968′s Music From Big Pink
The Skinny: Hudson got a chance to shine and made the most of it

[Dierks Bentley]

A Train Robbery

Lineup: Eric Church and core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Performed at a Ramble and impressed Levon
Original: Written by Paul Kennerley and recorded by Helm for 2007′s Dirt Farmer
The Skinny: Slow-paced dirge. Church gave perhaps the best speech about Helm’s legacy in between his tunes

Get Up Jake

Lineup: Eric Church with core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Performed at a Ramble and impressed Levon
Original: Found on The Band’s 1972 live album Rock of Ages
The Skinny: A catchy, earworm-y number that made people realize why Church got two songs

Tennessee Jed

Lineup: John Mayer with the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Mayer performed with Levon at a 2007 Parkinson’s benefit. The guitarist covers Chest Fever in concert
Original: Penned by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, it first appeared on the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 live album. Levon recorded the song for 2009′s Electric Dirt.
The Skinny: Larry Campbell handled lead vocals while Mayer took a blues-heavy, ripping solo

Up On Cripple Creek

Lineup: Joe Walsh, Robert Randolph and the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Walsh teamed up with Levon as part of Ringo Starr’s first All-Starr Band in 1989 and later for the Legends In Concert tour in 1991.
Original: One of the few songs credited to all the members of The Band, it was recorded for The Band’s eponymous second album in 1969 (The Brown Album).
The Skinny: Walsh strutted around stage and gave his signature smirk while delivering the lyrics. Joe and Robert really let it rip during the end solo

Ophelia

Lineup: My Morning Jacket with the Levon Helm Band horns
Guest’s Connection to Levon: MMJ teamed up with Levon for a 2010 Midnight Ramble.
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson for 1975′s Northern Lights – Southern Cross LP.
The Skinny: MMJ stuck to the typical arrangement with Jim James accentuating all of Levon’s trademark vocals

It Makes No Difference

Lineup: My Morning Jacket with Erik Lawrence on sax
Guest’s Connection to Levon: MMJ teamed up with Levon for a 2010 Midnight Ramble. The group first covered It Makes No Difference at the Izod Center on June 1, 2006 with Eddie Vedder.
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson for 1975′s Northern Lights – Southern Cross LP.
The Skinny: James has performed this one frequently and it showed. Lawrence took the sax solo by the balls and left jaws on the floor

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Lineup: Roger Waters with My Morning Jacket and the Levon Helm Band horns
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Helm along with Rick Danko and Garth Hudson were guests of Roger Waters at his massive The Wall concert in Berlin in 1990
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson and released by The Band on 1969′s The Band (The Brown Album) LP. Helm never sang the song after The Last Waltz.
The Skinny: Waters and Jim James split lead vocals which actually worked quite well – a stunning version

[Roger Waters w/ My Morning Jacket]

Wide River to Cross

Lineup: Amy Helm, Roger Waters and the core house band
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Helm along with Rick Danko and Garth Hudson were guests of Roger Waters at his massive The Wall concert in Berlin in 1990
Original: Penned by Buddy & Julie Miller, Helm recorded the song for 2007′s Dirt Farmer LP.
The Skinny: A beautiful duet featuring Waters strumming an acoustic guitar

The Weight

Lineup: Nearly every musician who played at the event
Guest’s Connection to Levon: Friends, family, those who influenced him and those influenced by him
Original: Written by Robbie Robertson for The Band’s 1968 debut Music From Big Pink
The Skinny: Members of the Levon Helm Band took the first verse, Mavis Staples sang the second verse, Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes handled the third verse, Roger Waters delivered the fourth verse while an array of musicians including Ray LaMontagne closed it out

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18 thoughts on “All-Star Cast of Musicians Show Love For Levon

  1. Craig McCornock Reply

    This will remain an epic musical experience for the rest of my life! I’m so charged and proud to have been there sharing the LoVe & Admiration, while 50 icons performed masterful renditions of songs immortalizing Levon Helm. His team created “The Greatest Show on Earth” !!!! Thank You…

  2. HK Reply

    Joan Osborne was also invited and sang at Helm’s memorial service.

  3. JC Reply

    too bad Don’t Do It was a miss. Saw Glen Hansard do a great cover of it in Chicago at Hideout Block party…great tune!

  4. nuttyriv3r Reply

    Scott, you and your team at Hidden Track are amazing. Great coverage as always. Thanks for all your meticulous work.

  5. FR Reply

    Great summary for those of us that couldn’t be there. Just curious, why was Don’t Do It a miss?

    • Scott Bernstein Reply

      While Bromberg’s voice fit nicely, he muffed a bunch of the lyrics and the whole song just didn’t have the “get up and go” tempo that made The Band’s versions so special

      • dave Reply

        have to disagree. i thought bromberg did a nice job, despite the few botched lyrics. i thought his singing meshed well with joan osborne’s

  6. MUMBY Reply

    Great breakdown, Scotty! Thanks!

  7. PG Reply

    Scotty, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you for the brilliant coverage.

  8. zappafrank Reply

    Great recap! Hopefully this will become a DVD!

  9. btenem Reply

    yup, this is money. Hidden Track is the leader in immediate live music breakdowns.

  10. Jaunty Reply

    I have to disagree in that I thought the Joan’s vocals on Don’t Do It were great. Definitely not a miss.

    • Scott Bernstein Reply

      Last thing I was looking to was to take aim at any part of the performance

  11. jgordon Reply

    zappafrank
    THey were definitely filming the evening’s events for a DVD release.

  12. Jake Reply

    Huge thanks Scott ! This was top notch work!

  13. CTMcCloud Reply

    This is easily the most comprehensive and informative review to be found of this stellar show! I have always enjoyed reading Scott’s Phish show recaps – and this is equally descriptive and evocative, yet succinct.
    I was privileged enough to be in attendance. While I would say the show certainly had its ebbs and flows, the ‘low-tide’ moments were still of the highest quality! My hands-down favorite five minutes of the evening involved Grace Potter’s command of ‘I Shall Be Released.’

  14. Jody Reply

    Thanks for such a comprehensive recap of one of the most amazing shows ever. I was there & tried to keep notes of who played what & all the highlights (although everything seemed to be a highlight) but my notes didn’t compare to your details & insight. Thanks again for posting!

  15. Dave Reply

    Sorry but Rogers is the LAST person I would have sung “Dixie.” My guess is the guy probably thinks Southerners are all redneck racists.

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