Save the Last Waltz for me

Dec 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Pop thinking

‘The Last Waltz’ confirmed I was born too late.  It was screened during freshers’ week in October 1979 at the London School of Economics, where I was a first year undergraduate. The Marin Scorsese film of the farewell concert of  ‘The Band’ was obviously vital viewing for the cognoscenti for the theatre was full.

Coming up from rustic England, the whole thing was a new experience.  There were groups who played at that concert of whom I had never heard, but was not going to confess my ignorance in such company.  The Band were calling it a day, the musicians who had played with the iconic Bob Dylan in the 1960s were playing their last gig and their friends had turned out in force to support them.

There was a sense of the slightly odd in going to a theatre to see a film made of a rock concert, like going to a museum to see some artefact of something now gone; but also a sense that this moment captured on celluloid was a moment that was special, that it captured some essence that might have been missed by those privileged to be at the concert. Having played the album many times on the car CD player, it must be admitted, that the music taken song by song is not necessarily brilliant, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, there is a feeling that this is a landmark.

Seeing a Ticketmaster advertisement for ‘The Last Waltz Live‘ there was a moment of puzzlement, was it possible to reassemble the line up of the 1976 film, weren’t some dead?  and if it was, wouldn’t the venue need to be huge and the tickets colossally expensive? Clicking on the link, the concert advertised is a re-enactment of the music of the film by a group of Dublin musicians.  It is ‘The Last Waltz’ in its third generation:   there was the concert itself, and then the film of the concert, and now a concert of the film.

It is like a friend in the 1980s who was a good amateur photographer, but had an exhibition of black and white photocopies he had made of a series of colour prints.  There were the objects photographed, and then the photographs, and then the photocopies of the photographs.  His logic was that he believed that the photocopies conveyed something of the essence of the subjects that might have been missed in the photographs; I wasn’t going to argue with him, it meant a night out with glasses of wine and finger food.

Maybe there is something in the re-incarnation of the music that was missed when watching it on celluloid.  As the tickets for its production in Kilkenny are only twenty quid, it’s probably worth finding out.


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