In 1976, Robbie Robertson and the rest of the Band had had enough with touring. 16 years on the road had taken it's toll, but they had gotten to play with some of the greats, most notably Bob Dylan. On Thanksgiving, they decided to hold their last concert where they had begun as the band 8 years earlier; not only that, but bring a few friends a long.
This DVD showcases only a portion of the five-hour show that night, sprinkled with interviews with the band members. While it does not capture the entire concert, the moments captured on DVD are spectacular and showcase the variety of the Band in terms of playing. Blues, rock, acoustic, and everywhere in between. The guests include such big names as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, and yes, Bob Dylan.
Kicking off the DVD is actually the encore performance of "Don't Do It" - a song driven by it's superb bass part and nice horn section. Also showcasing the vocal talents of Danko and Levon Helm (along bassist Rick Danko was a bit off that night). The next notable song would be with Ronnie Hawkins on "Who Do You Love" - a nice southern rocker fitted with blitzkerig guitar solos and plenty of yelling to get the crowd going.
My personal favorite track on the DVD, "It Makes No Difference", a powerful song of trying to get over a loved one. The heart-wrenching lyrics are fitted out with a beautiful guitar/sax solo trade off at the end. Robertson's guitar screams as he goes through his part, and the saxophone Garth is smooth and played to perfection.
Neil Young makes his appearance on "Helpless" with a beautiful harmonic part mixed in with great vocals by Young, Danko, and Joni Mitchell backstage. "The Weight", one of the Band's best known songs, was redone on a sound stage with the Staples. Levon Helm's voice is great, and the Staples add a nice bit of soul (Danko's vocals are off, but bearable).
Levon shines on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", an old folk song made popular by Joan Baez and others, but done superbly here. Helm's vocals are perfect for that song, and the drums drive do it to perfection. Muddy Waters does a blues number, and Neil Diamond and Van Morrison both make vocal performances on other songs as well. All the while, the Band is crossing musical boundaries and styles showcasing their versatility.
The song "Further on Down the Road" has Eric Clapton and Robertson trading off electric solos, each trying to out do the other. Clapton may have the skills on Robertson, but Robertson puts on one hell of a show. Finally, the show closes out with Bob Dylan performing two numbers - "Forever Young" and "Baby Let Me Follow You Down". Say what you will about Dylan, he sounds awesome here, and fits rock so much better than people give him credit for. The years of collaboration between him and the Band shows through on their timing and direction of the song.
Everyone gather together at the end for Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" before the ending credit song "Theme From the Last Waltz" plays. A "neo-classical" song as I think it was described, it's a nice closing to a great career on the road. Extra features includes about 10-20 minutes of a jam session that included Stephen Stills, Ron Wood, and Ringo Starr, unfortunately the cameras cut out before it was over.
All in all, this DVD shows the Band at its peak and just before they called it quits. Robertson, a great guitarist, is able to put all the fills in all the right places, and the rest of the Band shows how cohesive of a unit they are. Their ability to cross into many different styles with all those people is an amazing feat and a testament to their skills.