There are few pleasures greater than seeing any song by The Band performed live, much less songs a fully-orchestrated tribute to the quintet with an original member in tow.
A stroke of literal wish-fulfillment this past Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California, The Wild Honey Orchestra alongside Garth Hudson and the various cavalcade of Wild Honey guests presented an evening of selections by The Band, all for the benefit of the Autism Think Tank.
Playing The Band’s seminal Music From Big Pink and the self-titled 1969 release, The Wild Honey Orchestra, Hudson, and friends gave the Alex Theatre an unimaginable treat – full-scale re-workings of songs already veritable masterpieces themselves.
“Garth is one of the closest things we have to a living legend,” said Chris Morris, show host, in Hudson’s introduction to the stage.
Joined by one of the most impressive guest lists one could conjure up to accompany numbers such as “Tears of Rage” and “Up On Cripple Creek,” the evening was not only terrific retrospective of the group’s unparalleled career, but proved to be a wonderfully charitable night for the cause.
The numerous and multi-proficient crop of guest performers were clearly in awe when Hudson took the stage towards the end of the night, huddling around his organ-piano complex as they were witnessing a living installation in a museum.
Van Dyke Parks also joined in the musical camaraderie, lending his accordion skills to “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “All La Glory.” Dressed in a flannel and denim overalls combination, Parks’ immaculate presence was underscored by his appearance as homage to an extra in the Big Pink gatefold photograph.
Syd Straw’s interpretation of “Tears of Rage” was emotionally transcendent, inhabiting the emotional annex that can only be achieved by Richard Manuel himself. Back by various members of secondary in-house band and benefit regulars The Contintental Drifters, Straw was an impassioned wrecking ball, bringing home one of the most heart-rending numbers of The Band’s catalogue.
One of the absolute treats of the night was Jackson Browne’s impeccable presence on “Caledonia Mission” delivered with a voice that has seen absolutely no changes since the 1960’s, though maintaining the same impassioned qualities of the Laurel Canyon melting pot some 50 years ago.
Browne contributed the iconic “Crazy Chester” verse on the group’s performance of “The Weight,” a song so innumerable in its contributions to the genre of Americana and American culture at large that witnessing it live is akin to hearing something that bridged that gap between counter-culture and the eventual acceptance of a changing landscape in North America.
Simply put, there was not a flat number in the entire evening. It was with such pleasure that The Autism Think Tank was represented by a talented group of musicians, all converging for the love of The Band and for a highly important cause. Once again, The Wild Honey Orchestra and company found an evening to provide resonance in two highly important veins in today’s culture – the unassailable power of the arts and the impenetrable foundation of compassion.
Latest posts by Jake Tully (see all)
- Music From Big Pink Benefit For The Autism Think Tank - March 29, 2017
- Seneko Brings Back 90’s Americana - January 26, 2017