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Gala Farewell for the Live Band   Print

by Robert Hilburn
Los Angeles Times
November 6, 1976

The Band's "farewell" concert - now confirmed for Thanksgiving Day at Winterland in San Francisco - will be a gala, Bill Graham-produced affair featuring catered turkey dinners for the entire audience and what may well be the most prestigious group of guest stars ever assembled in rock music.

Among those strongly rumoured to be joining the Band for its last concert: Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and Ronnie Hawkins, the country-rock singer who originally brought the Band together (as his backup group, the Hawks) in 1959.

In keeping with the evening's theme of "The Last Waltz", Winterland will be turned into a stylish ballroom complete with chandeliers and other fancy trimmings. Dinner will be served from 4 to 6 p.m. with the music due to begin at 8. As now planned, the Band will open with a 60 to 90-minute set and then be joined by the various guests. The whole cast is expected to assemble at the end in a jam that may last into the early morning hours.

The Band presumably chose San Francisco for its final performance because it was at Winterland (for Graham) that the quintet made its first live appearance after the release in 1968 of the "Music from Big Pink" album that marked the beginning of the group's emergence as America's most respected rock unit. Tickets for the concert will go on sale at soon Sunday at various BASS outlets in Southern California.

Despite the end to live shows, the Band - as previously noted - will continue as a recording entity. There is no indication yet on whether the Winterland concert will be filmed or recorded. Considering the historic nature of the event, however, one or the other appears likely.

NEIL YOUNG REVISITED: If Neil Young's otherwise rewarding concert Monday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was somewhat marred by his overuse of new material, Young's appearance Thursday night at the Inglewood Forum suffered from an even more frustrating factor: its brevity. At 80 minutes, it was 2 songs and 10 minutes shorter than the already skimpy Pavilion show. One could sympathize with some of the booing that echoed throughout the arena when the house lights were turned on, signalling the end of the concert.

The issue Thursday was all the more disconcerting because the concert was building toward one of the most climactic finishes of any rock show seen here this year when it suddenly - prematurely - ended.

But the problem, it turns out, was not a lack of desire on Young's part to play more songs. Rather, the concert's brevity reflected the need - strictly enforced by manager Elliott Roberts - for Young to guard against damaging his throat. The singer-songwriter has a history of throat problems. In fact, he has had to cancel three tours in the last two-and-a-half years, Roberts said. Even this tour - which marks Young's first local appearance in three years - is a mini-one by rock standards.

The impact of the opening acoustic set (which subtracted one new song from Monday's list) was less than at the Pavilion because of the cavernous Forum surroundings and a noisy, restless - though clearly adoring - audience. Together these factors reduced the sound quality at times to that of a low-grade bootleg.

Young kicked off the electric set brilliantly, however, with a one-two-three punch that featured "Thankful for My Country Home" (a highly infectious new country-rocker), the richly engaging "Don't Cry No Tears" and the still urgent "Down by the River."

As on Monday, the instrumental exchanges were blistering and appealing in a way that one doesn't expect from someone who is often thought of as such a delicate songwriter. But part of Young's strength has always been his ability to merge hard and soft elements in his music. Some exquisite lighting effects Thursday helped reinforce these contrasting textures.

The momentum generated by those opening numbers was maintained through the remaining five numbers in a way that might well have equaled any Young appearance ever in Los Angeles. All the more disappointing that it had to end so abruptly. Since Young plans no tours next year, it'll probably be 1978 before he returns here in concert.

WHISKY TO ROCK AGAIN: After a year of presenting stage revues, the Whisky is reverting to its original role as a rock 'n' roll club. Owner Elmer Valentine said the club begins its move back to music next week when it kicks off a series of Monday night concerts featuring Don Ellis' Electric Orchestra. Valentine, who will continue to be associated with the highly successful Roxy, said so much talent is available that there simply isn't enough open space at the Roxy to handle them. Some alterations - from sound to decor - are already underway at the Whisky. An announcement of the club's new booking policy is expected shortly.

LIVE ACTION: Tickets for Peter Frampton's Dec. 5-7 concerts at the Inglewood Forum are now on sale at the Forum box office and various outlets while tickets for the Bee Gees - Brothers Johnson Dec. 20 Forum show go on sale Monday . . . Tickets also go on sale Monday at the Santa Monica Civic and various outlets for Lou Reed's Nov. 25 Civic concert and Ambrosia's Dec. 13 appearance at the same hall . . . Mail orders are being handled by the Anaheim Convention Center for Barry Manilow's Dec. 5 date there with Lady Flash . . . Because Chuck Mangione's 8 p.m. concert Tuesday night at the Santa Monica Civic is sold out, an 11 p.m. show has been added for the same date. . . Willie Nelson and David Allen Coe will be at the Long Beach Arena Nov. 25 . . . Tom Waits, whose excellent new "Small Change" album is reviewed in Sunday's Calendar in The Times, will be at UCLA's Royce Hall Dec. 3 . . . Patti Smith, whose new "Radio Ethiopia" album is also discussed Sunday, will be at the Santa Monica Civic Wednesday night, not Thursday as noted in the review . . . Black Sabbath is at the Long Beach Arena tonight . . . Boston makes its local debut with two shows Sunday night at the Santa Monica Civic.

 

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