The Who's Who That Came Out to Support "Love For Levon Helm"
Words by Bob Rose, Photos By Sam Feinstein
Last Wednesday night, thousands of people came to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey to enjoy over 3 hours of music from a star-studded lineup featuring well known artists from rock, folk, country, rhythm and blues in a tribute to Levon Helm.
Love for Levon not only celebrated the life and music of the legendary drummer of The Band, but raised funds to help his estate keep ownership of his home, barn, studio and to continue The Midnight Ramble Sessions.
An all-star band was led by Grammy award winners Don Was and Larry Campbell who served as co-musical directors. Prior to the show, Was commented on what a honor it was to be part of the show and how he was looking forward to playing bass guitar along side such a talented group of artists. Campbell served as the music director for the last several years of Levon’s life.
Warren Haynes kicked off the evening of 27 songs performing “The Shape I’m In”. Gregg Allman then joined him and they played “A Long Black Veil”. After songs from Jorma Kaukonen with Barry Mittihoff, and two from the Levon Helm Band, Marc Cohn took the stage.
Cohn set down at the keyboards and performed his song “Listening to Levon”. The song seemed to sum up the feeling of why so many artists came together to participate and pay tribute to Helm. Mavis Stapes performed next “Move Along Train” and was followed by Allen Toussaint.
Next up was John Prine who was joined by Garth Hudson (keyboardist for The Band) and they turned ia great rendition of “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”. Up next were Bruce Hornsby, Jakob Dylan and Luncinda Williams. After she played “Whispering Pines”, Lucinda said, “It’s such an honor to be here – God Bless Levon Helm” to rousing applause from the appreciative audience.
Bassist Mike Gordon of Phish joined John Hiatt for a rousing rendition of “Rag Mama Rag”, bringing the crowd to their feet. David Bromberg and Joan Osborne performed together “Don’t Do It”. Grace Potter took the stage on the keyboards and in a sparse rendition played “I Shall Be Released”. John Mayer and Ray LaMontagne shared the stage with Ray providing the lead vocals to “Tears of Rage”. Country artist Dierks Bentley performed next and on his second song brought out Garth Hudson, keyboardist of The Band for “Chest Fever”.
Eric Church performed next and commented, “I march to the beat of a different drummer - Levon Helm”. Larry Campbell sang lead vocals on “Tennesee Jed” with John Mayer on lead guitar. Next up were the Jersey Boys, Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph who tore into “Up on Cripple Creek”.
My Morning Jacket performed two songs next “Ophelia” and “It Makes No Difference” before they were joined by Roger Waters in their powerful rendition of “The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down”. Water told the story of the baseball hat he was wearing which was given to hear years ago by Levon when he, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko performed with Waters at the Berlin Wall. “This is the fishing hat Levon gave me at the Berlin Wall and I will wear it till the day I die” to rousing applause. Waters then brought out all of the performers from the evening and they played “The Weight” for the evening’s finale.’
Allen Toussaint said prior to the show, “The spirit of Levon brought me here tonight” and those words were what seemed to have also brought dozens of artists and thousands of peopleon this night to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.