Tribute to Levon Helm of The Band features Roger Waters, Eric Church, Gregg Allman and others
Last October's "Love For Levon" benefit concert in East Rutherford, N.J., will be released in eight audio and video configurations on March 19, preserving a memorable night of music celebrating the late Levon Helm.
Performers that evening at the Izod Center included Roger Waters, who performed with My Morning Jacket and the night's all-star band, Garth Hudson, Helm's mate in The Band, Gregg Allman, John Mayer, Grace Potter, Bruce Hornsby, Warren Haynes, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan and Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers, Marc Cohn, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint and country stars Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, among others. Don Was and the Levon Helm Band's Larry Campbell were co-musical directors of the show, which was executive produced by Keith Wortman, who previously teamed with Was for the "We Walk The Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash" concert.
"It was a great night," Wortman tells Billboard. "Levon was so well loved and so highly regarded, especially by his fellow musicians, that we could have filled up three, four, five shows with completely different lineups." Was, meanwhile, adds that the musical makeup of the show allowed for both reverence and originality. "We tried to find this balance where you stay faithful to the original intentions of the song," Was explains, "but if you do soundalikes to songs Levon sang, you're going to be hard-pressed to top those vocals. Everyone's got to find their own way into these songs. It was different every song."
The guest singers were backed by a variety of ensembles, including Helm's own band as well as the all-star aggregation put together by Was that included drummer Kenny Aronoff and Greg Leisz. The combinations led to innumerable highlights, including Mayer -- who was not able to sing at the time -- playing on "Tennessee Jed," the combination of Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph for "Up on Cripple Creek," Lucinda Williams' delivery of "Whispering Pines," Bentley's rocking take on "Chest Fever" with Hudson recreating his famous organ fugue, and, of course the show-closing version of "The Weight" that gathered everyone onstage together.
Waters, meanwhile, brought the hankies out by explaining that he was there as a payback for Helm and The Band taking part in his presentation of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" during July of 1990 in Berlin; he then donned the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap that Helm gave him, saying that he wears it every time he goes fishing.
"He's not the first guy you would think of to link into Levon's music," Was notes, "but he was amazing on the show and really made those couple of songs ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Wide River To Cross") his own."
With a couple of seminal figures from Helm's career -- Bob Dylan and Band mate Robbie Robertson -- unavailable the night of the show, Jakob Dylan proved an appropriate addition to the lineup.
"He said he wanted to do 'Ain't Got No Home,' " Was remembers, "and I just assumed that because Bob Dylan did the Woody Guthrie 'Ain't Got No Home in This World Anymore' and performed it with The Band, that was the song. And I thought it was a break from tradition for Jakob to do a song like that. Of course, he showed up and it was the (Clarence) Frogman Henry 'Ain't Got No Home' that he wanted to do..."
Star Vista Entertainment/Time Life will release "Love For Levon" as a double CD and in DVD and Blu-ray versions, and in combined Digipaks, as well as in Digital Audio for iTunes, HD audio for HD Tracks and HD video. The video versions will include bonus material such as artist interviews and HD footage. Proceeds from the sets will help to maintain the Levon Helm Studio in Woodstock, N.Y., and continue the series of Midnight Ramble Sessions concerts there.
"Love For Levon" will also air Feb. 17 on AXS-TV (formerly HDNet) and will be broadcast on PBS during its spring pledge drive.
1. "The Shape I’m In" / Warren Haynes with the All Star Band and Rami Jaffee
2. "Long Black Veil" / Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes with the All Star Band
3. "Trouble in Mind" / Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff with Larry Campbell, Justin Guip, Byron Isaacs and Jaimoe
4. "This Wheel’s on Fire" / The Levon Helm Band with Shawn Pelton
5. "Little Birds" / Larry Campbell, Justin Guip, Amy Helm, Byron Isaacs and Teresa Williams
6. "Listening to Levon" / Marc Cohn with the Levon Helm Band and Greg Leisz
7. "Move Along Train" / Mavis Staples with the Levon Helm Band
8. "Life Is a Carnival" / Allen Toussaint with the Levon Helm Band and Jaimoe
9. "When I Paint My Masterpiece" / John Prine and Garth Hudson with the Levon Helm Band and Joan Osborne
10. "Anna Lee" / Bruce Hornsby with Larry Campbell, Amy Helm and Teresa Williams
11. "Ain’t Got No Home" / Jakob Dylan with the All Star Band and Rami Jaffee
12. "Whispering Pines" / Lucinda Williams with the All Star Band and Rami Jaffee
13. "Rag Mama Rag" / John Hiatt with the All Star Band and Mike Gordon
14. "Don’t Do It" / David Bromberg and Joan Osborne with the All Star Band
15. "I Shall Be Released" / Grace Potter with Don Was and Matt Burr
16. "Tears of Rage" / Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer with the All Star Band
17. "Rockin’ Chair" / Dierks Bentley with the All Star Band, Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall
18. "Chest Fever" / Dierks Bentley and Garth Hudson with the All Star Band, Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall
19. "A Train Robbery" / Eric Church with the All Star Band
20. "Get Up Jake" / Eric Church with the All Star Band
21. "Tennessee Jed" / John Mayer with the All Star Band and Steve Jordan
22. "Up on Cripple Creek" / Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph with the All Star Band
23. "Ophelia" / My Morning Jacket
24. "It Makes No Difference" / My Morning Jacket
25. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" / Roger Waters, My Morning Jacket and G. E.
26. "Wide River to Cross" / Roger Waters and G. E. Smith with the All Star Band
27. Encore: "The Weight" / All performers