November 25th 1976 , The Band gave their final farewell concert together. Guest stars included musicians like Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Neil Diamond, Bobby Charles, The Staple Singers, and Eric Clapton.
This was a big deal as far as concerts go. So when the Martin Scorsese signed on to film the documentary, which was released in 1978, “The Last Waltz” became a preserved moment in history.
Flash forward to 2015 and I get the opportunity to be a member of the second performance of The Last Waltz in Hoboken NJ. I wasn’t familiar with the documentary. I had heard about the first Hoboken’s Last Waltz the previous year, but it was sold out. Little did I know this show would be sold out also.
I get called by Jaime DeJesus of ALEO music and he asks me if I would be comfortable singing and playing at the same time in a big show. This is like asking me if I want to eat a box of thin mints. The answer is yes. Yes I do. So I downloaded the sheet music to Dr John, Such a Night. I had three weeks to learn this song and make it my own. Piece of cake.
Then came the dress rehearsal. I walk into an artists loft building with rehearsal spaces and studios and I climb my way up to the third floor. I can hear the music from the hallway. When I say music I don’t mean a typical rock band rehearsal. I mean it sounded like a 70’s rock and roll band was giving a concert. Oh. Shit.
I walk into the room and I am one of 20 musicians just watching this full on dress rehearsal with some of the most talented people I have ever seen or heard. I am usually a confident musician. I suddenly get cotton mouth. I am actually nervous. I was haughty going into this and seeing these other musicians who were masters of their craft, work together on stage to create such a perfectly sublime sound, made me freeze up.
I sat in the hallway for a few minutes singing the song to myself and then I got up there. The band was so tight it was like playing with a metronome. Picture a bass player, drummer and guitarist all harmonizing with you on the fly for the first time. Incredible. I went home knowing I needed to keep practicing because this was not just any show. This was a performance.
The night of the actual concert there was barely any standing room at Maxwell’s Tavern. I did a fair amount of walking around to try and stay calm. When I got up there, the crowd was gone. The lights were in my face, the keys under my fingers and I just let go. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. They told me I brought the house down. I knew they were just playing nice because that night, I saw Liam Butterscotch Brown climb a pole during his rendition of Caravan. Talk about a show stopper.
I am so grateful I got to play Dr John in the Second Annual Hoboken’s Last Waltz. I hope they ask me back next year.
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