It started as a concert. It became a celebration. Join an unparalleled lineup of rock superstars
as they celebrate The Band's historic 1976 farewell performance. Directed by Martin Scorsese
(Raging Bull, Goodfellas), The Last Waltz is not only "the most beautiful rock film evermade"
(New York Times) it's "one of the most important cultural events of the last two decades"
For more about The Last Waltz and the The Last Waltz Blu-ray release, see the The Last Waltz Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on December 6, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Van Morrison--these artists and many more grace
the stage in The Band's farewell concert at the Winterland ballroom. More than a
performance, The Last Waltz documents an important microcosm to evaluate the world
of rock'n roll and many of its biggest stars in the 1970s. The concert rocks. The performers are
inspired, appearing at the peak of their powers. And the Blu-ray release goes far beyond earlier DVD
reveal that The Last Waltz is indeed filmed gorgeously, with sound that is both rich and refined.
Bob Dylan, with his trademark white hat, leads a stage packed with talent in a rousing performance
of "I Shall Be Released".
If not for two icons who pulled The Band into their inner spheres, there would be no The Last
Waltz. One was Bob Dylan; the other, Martin Scorsese. Without Dylan, The Band would not have
achieved stardom. Dylan was the most influential singer/songwriter of the past century and he
this quintet to record his songs on albums like "Planet Waves". The Band, with its folk roots,
suited Dylan's songwriting and vocal style, so the collaboration was not a complete coincidence.
However, the connection to Scorsese was coincidental: the director and Band guitarist Robbie
Robertson were roommates together, sharing an address in the Hollywood hills. The relationship
between Scorsese and Robertson is one of the reasons
The Last Waltz works so well as a series of interviews interspersed with performances. Robertson,
who produced the film, delivers confidence and raw energy that translate into vibrance,
comaraderie and musical prowess, from his anecdotes of life as a rock star on the road to his
simple but effective lead guitar lines. At a time when Scorsese was focusing his camera on actors
like Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, Robertson proved to be an apt protagonist.
But as tastefully as Robertson plays the guitar and as authentic as he comes across in his on-
camera storytelling, it is the artistry of both Scorsese and Dylan that catapult The Last Waltz
from banal concert footage
to a storied event in rock lore. Like a thesis in an award-winning essay, The Last Waltz begins
with The Band taking their final bows as they walked off the stage. Then Scorsese shows exactly
what needs to be seen. In an age of poor camera angles and cheap productions, The Last Waltz
was captured flawlessly with camera work and lighting that pay dividends on Blu-ray. The gifted
musicianship. The legends. The performances. The stories. The songs. And in the end, the entire
stage, filled with every member of The Band and each guest singing Dylan's song of freedom and
redemption: "I see my light come shining from the West down to the East. Any day now, any
way now, I shall be released."
In the 1970s, the rise of metal, new wave and punk, along with cultural cynicism and
excesses, had implications for all rock acts. Many groups disbanded due to internal and external
pressures. The majority of them dissolved behind the scenes, but The Last Waltz immortalized
The Band's final concert and delivered insight into the decision to call it quits.
that decision were more than 10 years on the road and some solo ambitions of Robertson, Levon
Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson--The Band.
Although the quintet wrote many songs that helped define the era (e.g., The Weight), several of
inspirational songs in The Last Waltz, including "I Shall Be Released", "Caravan", "Helpless" and
"Coyote", are by other artists. The Band functions as a backup group for
each guest. From the fiery blues shout of Muddy Waters to the plaintive voice of Neil Diamond to
the biting harmonica of Paul Butterfield,
The Band wraps itself around the style and talents of each guest artist with authority and
supportive muscle. The
group never strays too far from its folk and blues roots. And clearly that was one reason The
Band called it quits after a decade
together. Their time had come. Although The Band did tour again after the Winterland concert, it
was never the same. For all intents and purposes, The Last Waltz was its swan song. Ten years
after the movie was filmed, Richard Manuel committed suicide.
Some of the concert's defining moments had little to do with The Band and more to do with
Dylan's influence and powerful performance, Mitchell's jazz inflections, Morrison's gritty vocals and
Clapton's guitar phrasing.
Watch the way Neil Young, the most obvious of the many Dylan disciples, oggles his hero across
the stage. In Dylan, The Last Waltz showcases a songwriter who transformed
popular music from sophomoric love songs to multilayered poetry...an artist who defied
catagorization, who at the peak of his popularity, retreated to upstate New York with none other
than The Band. His presence at The Last Waltz put the final exclamation point on the group's
Those who did not see The Last Waltz in theaters are in for a treat. The Blu-ray is remarkably film-
like, with contrast, resolution and grain normally associated with filmstock. Noise is minimal, and
the picture is remarkably clean and detailed, while retaining warmth. Even the
definition visible in the menu's navigation bar is resolved gorgeously, giving a more modern look and
feel, as well as excellent navigation to
The Last Waltz. The film is also made timeless by Scorsese's attention to camera angles, framing
and lighting. Unlike most concert footage where the long shots are jittery and the close-ups miss
the mark, The Last Waltz focuses on the key areas to see at any given moment, whether it's the
facial expression of a musician or the entire band on the stage. The 1080p resolution instantly
communicates details unresolved in NTSC versions, including fabric textures, hair, or in Neil Young's
case a bit of white powder near his nose, rumored to be cocaine. The definition is fantastic and
dramatically improves the footage compared to DVD releases.
Aside from the camerawork, the real gift of The Last Waltz is the music, and the BD production
offers a significant upgrade over
the CD and DVD versions. The 5.1 lossless PCM is a treat with extended treble, solid
midrange and taught bass. Every instrument is audible and images superbly in the soundstage,
which is lush deep and vibrant. Listen to Joni Mitchell sing backup vocals in Helpless. Female voices
are an excellent reference for judging the audible merits of recordings, and here Mitchell sounds full
and with gorgeous timbre. Throughout her subsequent performance of Coyote, the way she breaks
from spoken words into more melodic placement of the notes soars above the taught rhythmic
pulse of The Band. The mix shows each of the instruments off well, with no audible congestion that
tends to make instruments sound like they're tripping over each other in
The special feature that adds the most value to The Last Waltz is Martin Scorsese's commentary.
Robbie Robertson's comments, while not technical in any way, are also insightful, but Scorsese's
attention to detail in capturing the performances becomes abundantly clear. The director tackled
every challenge and leapt every hurdle in filming the key shots, camera angles and close-ups that
give The Last Waltz its visual edge over other concerts filmed in the 1970s. Whether you want to
listen to Scorsese go into the technical details is another matter. Peppering the commentary with
kind words about the guest artists and his comrades in The Band, Robertson shows a more
relaxed approach than his former roommate.
"Revisiting The Last Waltz", a 20-minute special featuring Scorsese and Robertson, covers slightly
different ground than the audio commentary. The focus of the featurette is the concert's
importance and its roll in ushering in the end of an era, not just the end of The Band. Some of
the supplementary bonuses available on the previous DVD release are not included, including
additional concert audio. Fans interested in this music will find it on the expanded multiple CD
release from Sony.
The Last Waltz is essential viewing for classic rock aficionados and fans of Dylan or the other guest
artists. Of course, if you're at all into the songs of The Band, especially their landmark debut album,
Music from the Big Pink, The Last Waltz is an absolute revelation and the Blu-ray is now the
ultimate version. To see the members of the band performing gives a deeper understanding of their
style and musical skills. It may look a bit dated, but The Last Waltz is refreshing at the same time.
It takes us back to an era when rock stardom was achieved more by talent and dedication to the
music compared with today's music business of dancing divas and gangsta rappers. An easy