The Band proves to be another quality tribute perfromance at the Kirby Center
It was another great evening in the F.M. Kirby Center’s Chandelier Lobby on Saturday as the music and spirit of The Band was brought back by The THE BAND Band.
The tribute musicians from upstate New York – Gary Solomon (bass, vocals), Jack Kraft (keyboards, accordion, vocals), Mike Corbin (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Josh Radin (lead guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Vinny Nicosia (drums, vocals) – faithfully reproduced the songs of the beloved Canadian-American roots rockers. Just like the originals, there was not one clear-cut lead singer, and the group sounded best when they sang together.
The five musicians who became The Band – Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson – first came together as each joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins’ backing group The Hawks between 1958 and 1963. In 1964, they struck out on their own as Levon and the Hawks before being hired by Bob Dylan for his first electric tour in 1965. After working on what became “The Basement Tapes” with Dylan in 1967, The Band released its debut album “Music from Big Pink” in 1968. The original incarnation of the group ended its touring career in 1976 with “The Last Waltz” and released its last studio album “Islands” in 1977.
A second version of the group formed in 1983 without Robertson and toured until Manuel committed suicide in 1986. The Band reformed again in 1990 (again without Robertson) and was active until 1999, when Danko died. The original incarnation was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Helm, the much-praised vocalist and drummer turned actor, died in 2012 after a long battle with throat cancer.
The first 60-minute set was kicked off by Solomon with “Look Out Cleveland,” a tune originally sung by Danko from The Band’s 1969 self-titled second album, written (like most of the songs performed Saturday) by Robertson.
Corbin followed with “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” from the same album; then Kraft sang lead on “Long Black Veil,” the 1959 hit by Lefty Frizzell revived by The Band for its 1968 debut.
The tribute continued with another one from the second album, “Up On Cripple Creek,” which reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and was The Band’s biggest hit.
“It’s great to be here in this great room,” Solomon said before he sang Manuel’s “We Can Talk” from the first album. The group returned to the second album two more times for “When You Awake” and “Rag Mama Rag.”
The first set drew to a close with “Don’t Ya Tell Henry” from the fabled “Basement Tapes,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” one of the original group’s most enduring songs, “Across the
Great Divide,” yet another tune from the second album, and “Stage Fright,” the title track to The Band’s 1970 album.
The second set opened with a nod to The Band’s later incarnation with 1993’s “Remedy” from the “Jericho” album, and a return to “Stage Fright” for “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show.”
The group then did some Dylan songs including “I Want You,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn),” then continued with the Dylan/Danko composition “This Wheel’s On Fire” from “Music from Big Pink.”
The tribute headed down the homestretch with “Ophelia,” “The Shape I’m In,” “It Makes No Difference” and “Life is a Carnival,” before ending with a sing-along “The Weight.”
For the encore, the group did a fine version of Dylan’s “Forever Young” (from 1974’s “Planet Waves” album by Dylan and The Band) by request and “Don’t Do It,” The Band’s popular live version of the Motown staple “Baby Don’t You Do It.”
Saturday’s show was hosted by Michael Cloeren, who interviewed Solomon during the intermission. Solomon said his first exposure to The Band was when his sister gave him the “Stage Fright” album for his 13th birthday and he saw the original incarnation of The Band twice, including the Thanksgiving Day 1976 concert that became the film “The Last Waltz” directed by Martin Scorsese.