The Hippo


Jun 26, 2019








The Last Waltz Live. Courtesy photo.

The Last Waltz Live

When: Saturday, Feb. 13, 8 p.m.
Where: Rochester Opera House, 31 Wakefield St., Rochester
Tickets: $22-$26 at

Roots redux
Recreating The Last Waltz 40 years on

By Michael Witthaus

In the annals of Americana music, The Band is essential, a touchstone. A writer once asked Alternate Routes frontman Tim Warren why his band did “The Weight” but few other covers. “It’s our national anthem,” Warren answered. Eric Clapton said in 1982 that Music From Big Pink, the album where the song first appeared, changed his life. 

The Band was four-fifths Canadian, with just one U.S. born member: Levon Helm, son of an Arkansas cotton farmer. To Tor Krautter, however, they’re quintessentially red, white and blue. “I truly believe that the Band are pioneers of what a lot of people now call Americana or roots music,” he said in a recent interview. “Those guys brought it into the mainstream.”
As a teenager, Krautter absorbed every note of The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s documentary film of The Band’s farewell show at San Francisco’s Winterland in November 1976. 
“It was one of the first concert videotapes I ever owned,” he said. “I probably went through a couple of them.” 
When Helm passed in 2012, Krautter and his mates in the Rev Tor Band wanted to pay tribute, and hit on the idea of recreating the film. “We thought it would be perfect because of all the special guests,” he said. They assembled a cast of musicians from their Berkshires home base, and the show was a quick sellout. 
“The vibe of the night was magical, and we decided we really need to keep this thing going,” Krautter said. “So we put it on the road.”
The Last Waltz Live duplicates the movie’s setlist; Krautter recruits area musicians for each show, a six week process of screening YouTube videos and listening to songs on the Internet, usually with an assist from a local scenester. For the upcoming Rochester Opera House show, he enlisted Roots of Creation leader Brett Wilson. 
“I know Brett fairly well,” Krautter said. “Our paths have crossed on the jam band circuit quite a bit … he was a big help.”
The Feb. 13 lineup includes Wilson, members of the bands High Range and Wellfleet, Joe Biedrzycki, Patrick Curry, Lou Eastman, Tara Greenblatt, Arthur James, Jon King, Rob Kneeland, Mike Morris, Craig Roy, Tom Schena and Andrea Szirbik. Rev Tor Band assumes the role of The Band. 
Krautter stresses that this is not a doppelgänger. In the 30 or so times The Last Waltz Live’s been done since debuting in 2012, a few have channeled  Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy”growl, Van Morrison’s  “Caravan” leg kick and other epic moments from a show that featured a staggering array of iconic performers. But the goal is to imbue, not reproduce each song.  
“We’re never asking anyone to do an impersonation; we want people to bring their own touch to the music,” he said. “We don’t deviate from the song, but in terms of the voice and their music that’s very much their own. But magic moments happen for each show of ours too. Everyone is in the spirit of it, and these things tend to happen on their own.”
Such a night happened in 2014 at Bethel Woods Performance Center, site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. On  “Mystery Train,” Paul Butterfield’s son Gabriel joined them onstage. 
“Of course, Butterfield Blues Band played Woodstock,” Krautter said. “Gabe was thrilled … to play on the same hallowed ground and honor his dad’s role in the film.”  
Earlier in the day, a Woodstock Museum tour guide chatted with Krautter and bandmate Dan Broad. 
“An old hippie guy, he said, ‘You guys are playing? Well, the ghosts are going to come out tonight.’ They sure did – you could feel it.”
Krautter is mum about set list specifics for the Rochester show. 
“It’s not top secret or anything, but we generally do not like to give away who is doing what song,” he said. “That’s part of what makes the show fun for the audience. I will say this: if I hear a powerful, soulful singer, I put them on the list for ‘Caravan,’ and a good blues guitarist/singer will be considered for Clapton’s ‘Further On Up The Road.’ A folkie might be [matched] to Neil Young.” 
Each unique night is less a tribute concert than a community hoot in the spirit of the Midnight Ramble Helm hosted at his Woodstock barn during the 2000s, mixing friendship and spontaneity with songs stitched into the souls of like-minded musicians.  
“I will share this much,” Krautter said. “We always try and honor someone who has either been a long time staple of the area’s music scene or is from the area and has gone on to become successful. Our Dylan for the show is Brett Wilson.” 

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