21st November 2018 (UK Blu-Ray Debut), 22nd June 2020 (UK Blu Re-release), 26th April 1978 (US Theatrical)
Thanksgiving, 1976, San Francisco's Winterland: the Band performs its last concert after 16 years on the road. Some numbers they do alone, some songs include guest artists from Ronnie Hawkins (their first boss, when they were the Hawks) to Bob Dylan (their last, when as his backup and as a solo group, they came into their own). Scorsese's camera explores the interactions onstage in the making of music. Offstage, he interviews the Band's five members, focusing on the nature of life on the road. The friendships, the harmonies, the hijinks, and the wear and tear add up to a last waltz.
Robbie Robertson, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson,
If you’re not familiar with The Band, you’ll surely have heard of the company they keep.
Neil Diamond. Bob Dylan. Neil Young. Muddy Waters. Joni Mitchell. Ringo Starr. Ronnie Wood. Van Morrrison. All fans of The Band and all play a part in their big send-off.
In 1976, after 16 years touring the world, The Band would call it a day. Their advertised final performance would be dubbed ‘The Last Waltz’ and an up and coming filmmaker named Martin Scorsese (The Irishman, Goodfellas) captured the unforgettable show. Rather aptly occurring on American Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, The Band’s last show would also take place at the venue where it all started for them, San Francisco’s now-demolished Wonderland Ballroom. After an initial limited run in November 2018 as part of their Masters of Cinema series, Eureka Entertainment have brought The Last Waltz back for a standard, but no less special, edition encore.
Inter-cutting concert footage with candid and sincere backstage interviews in which members talk about a variety of topics including the difficulties of being in their particular musical outfit, how they decided on their name and much more, The Last Waltz is the definitive insight into a band, The Band, whose music defined generations and unquestionably influenced the sound of rock and roll we hear today. Scorsese’s film captures a band that has accomplished all they wish to achieve but haven’t rested on their laurels. They’re going out on the highest of the highs (in a variety of ways if Scorsese’s stories are to be believed…) and bringing in some of the biggest names in Rock ‘n Roll to help with the send-off celebration.
The Last Waltz is a concert film unlike any other. The immense amount of talent on stage continues to expand with every song and special guest that’s brought on. It’s impossible to pick out highlights because with every song that I listed as a standout performance, it would be outdone with the next track. Some notable mentions include a soaring rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ with and off-stage Joni Mitchell on backing vocals, a soulful and soothing studio sound stage roll-out of The Band’s arguably biggest hit ‘The Weight’ with The Staples Singers in tow as well as an iconic (and, as Scorsese tells in the Revisiting The Last Waltz featurette, ‘pure luck’) capture of Blues legend Muddy Waters performing Mannish Boy.
I was frequently in awe at how effortless they make multi-task playing look. Drummer Levon Helm takes on percussion or guitar and lead vocal duties on many of the tracks and makes it look like the easiest thing in the world. I’m currently attempting to learn the drums and believe me, doing absolutely anything other than concentrating on each hit is extraordinarily difficult. To take centre-stage on the kit (well, figuratively) with complex patterns and also sing is a monumental feat.
Eureka’s pin sharp 1080p presentation and crystal clear PCM 5.1 Surround Audio means The Last Waltz has never looked or sounded better. It genuinely appears to have been filmed mere months ago, let alone over forty years. Special Features include two audio commentaries: one with director Martin Scorsese and Musician/producer Robbie Robertson and another, admittedly crowded audio track with Band members Levon Helm and Garth Hudson. They’re joined by *deep breath*: journalist Jay Cocks and Greil Marcus, Creative Consultant Mardik Martin, producers Jonathan Taplin and Steve Prince, Cameraman Michael Chapman, Music Producer John Simon, Irwin Winkler and performers Mavis Staples, Dr. John and Ronnie Hawkins. There’s the helpful options of subtitles to identify who’s talking, which I’d recommend.
The film opens with a demand to ‘Play This Film LOUD’ and having chosen to watch it at 4AM, it’s not a request I could have accomplished. But it’s not for the lack of wanting and it won’t be the only time I watch The Last Waltz. I guarantee with future performances I’ll be turning it up to 11.
The Last Waltz is available to order from Eureka Store and Amazon
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
· 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray
· PCM 5.1 Audio
· Optional English SDH subtitles
· Audio Commentary by director Martin Scorsese and Musician Robbie Robertson
· Audio Commentary by “The Band” members Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, journalists Jay Cocks and Greil Marcus, creative consultant Mardik Martin, producers Jonathan Taplin and Steven Prince, Cameraman Michael Chapman, Music Producer John Simon, Irwin Winkler and performers Mavis Staples, Dr. John and Ronnie Hawkins (includes optional subtitles identifying who is talking)
· Revisiting The Last Waltz [22 mins]
· Archival Outtakes
· Stills gallery
Timeless Rock 'n Roll performed by some of the All-Time greats
Candid insights from The Band about life on the road and the tolls of being part of such an influential outfit