Levon Helm Band
Central Park Summerstage
New York, New York
September 2, 2009
When people go to see their favorite bands live, they usually go for more than the music. Watching said band(s) in person lets the typical concert-goer connect with their idols. It allows one to look past the fancy staged music videos and into the musician’s soul. It provides a small glimpse into the musician’s thoughts, emotions, and even into some of their personality. The way they move, groove, walk, talk even dress can all enhance their performance on stage.
When it comes to watching Levon Helm and his band perform, you walk away with a feeling like you just watched one of your best friends play in your basement. Although his voice was sidelined due to sprained vocal chords, his smile said plenty. No one smiles more than this man when he is performing. Even at Helm’s advanced age, he can still pound the skins with the best of them. When he isn’t smiling he’s usually kicking it into gear with one of his classic fills or letting the rest of his extremely talented band know when the next change is.
On tour now supporting his new critically acclaimed album Electric Dirt, Levon revisited classics such as “Tennessee Jed.” The chorus was sung by the entire band (as well as the crowd) which includes his daughter Amy Helm (who like her father plays the mandolin, sings, and every once in a while played the drums,) Teresa Williams (guitar/vocals), her husband Larry Campbell (vocals/anything with strings….literally) and Brian Mitchell (piano/organ/accordian/vocals) rounded out the rest of the singers.
Dropping in Band classics like “The Shape I’m In” and “It Makes No Difference,” the crowd was taken to that next level. Smiling away, Levon rolled through the set without missing a beat.
The definite highlight of his performance was the closer “The Weight.” For this song Helm invited Black Crowes members Chris and Rich Robinson and Steve Gorman, who kept the beat strong. As everyone traded verses the crowd roared in appreciation.
Once the song was over hands were shaken and hugs given as the musicians said goodbye to their audience. Before Levon left the stage he was spotlighted and stood tall – waving, blowing kisses, and even bowing down to the crowd in order to show his appreciation to the only thing he can possibly love as much as playing music – his fans.