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Levon Helm Shown Lots Of Love

Levon Helm
(Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Levon Helm, the late singer and drummer of The Band was honored with an all-star tribute show Wednesday night at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The three-and-a-half hour, 27-song Love for Levon featured performances by many of his friends, including Garth Hudson, Roger Waters, Joe Walsh, Gregg Allman, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint and John Hiatt. The lineup also included others inspired by Levon and The Band, such as John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne, Grace Potter, My Morning Jacket, Jakob Dylan and country singers Eric Church and Dierks Bentley.

With limited stage production — no video screens or photos of Levon and no speeches — the show moved at a very quick pace with no delays between acts as they ran through a selection of songs from The Band and Levon’s solo career.

Highlights included:

•John Hiatt’s version of “Rag Mama Rag,” which suited his voice perfectly as he sounds similar to Levon.
•The same can be said for Joe Walsh doing “Up on Cripple Creek,” which had him and Robert Randolph doing an extended solo towards the end.
•Garth Hudson, one of only two surviving members of The Band, received a standing ovation for his two appearances — with John Prine on “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and with Dierks Bentley on “Chest Fever.”
•Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer added a kick to “Tears of Rage.”
•Allen Toussaint’s version of “Life Is a Carnival” featured the same horn arrangements he did on The Band’s Rock of Ages live album.
•Grace Potter, saying it was a highlight of her life to be part of the show, turned in a stirring and electrifying version of “I Shall Be Released.”
•Roger Waters and My Morning Jacket took “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and turned into an arena-rock tune. When Waters came out he hung a red baseball cap on his microphone stand and said Levon gave it to him when The Band joined him in Berlin in 1990 for his performance of The Wall. He said he’ll wear it as fishing cap until the day he dies.

Four of the night’s songs were written or co-written by Bob Dylan — “This Wheel’s on Fire,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “I Shall Be Released” and “Tears of Rage.” His son Jakob told us his father would have loved to have been there, but was unable to as he was in the Midwest rehearsing for his tour, which starts Friday in Winnipeg.

The house band featured members of The Levon Helm Band, which is led by Larry Campbell, along with drummers Kenny Aronoff and Steve Jordan and Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee.

The show was filmed for a TV special and a DVD and CD release early next year. Proceeds will go to help paying the mortgage for Levon’s home and barn in Woodstock, New York, which houses a recording studio and where his Midnight Ramble shows are held.

Set list:

1) The Shape I’m In – Warren Haynes

2) Long Black Veil – Warren Haynes & Gregg Allman

3) Trouble in Mind – Jorma Kaukonen

4) This Wheel’s on Fire – Levon Helm Band

5) Little Birds – Levon Helm Band

6) Listening to Levon – Marc Cohn

7) Move Along Train – Mavis Staples

8) Life Is a Carnival – Allen Toussaint

9) When I Paint My Mastepiece – John Prine & Garth Hudson

10) Anna Lee – Bruce Hornsby

11) Ain’t Got No Home – Jakob Dylan

12) Whispering Pines – Lucinda Williams

13) Rag Mama Rag – John Hiatt w/Mike Gordon of Phish

INTERMISSION

14) Don’t Do It – David Bromberg & Joan Osborne

15) I Shall Be Released – Grace Potter

16) Tears of Rage – Ray La Montagne & John Mayer

17) Rockin’ Chair – Dierks Bentley

18) Chest Fever – Dierks Bentley & Garth Hudson

19) A Train Robbery – Eric Church

20) Get Up Jake – Eric Church

21) Tennessee Jed – Larry Campbell & John Mayer

22) Up on Cripple Creek – Joe Walsh & Robert Randolph

23) Ophelia – My Morning Jacket

24) Makes No Difference – My Morning Jacket

25) The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – My Morning Jacket & Roger Waters

26) Wide River to Cross – Roger Waters & Amy Helm (Levon’s daughter)

27) The Weight – Entire cast

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