The Last Waltz

Arguably the greatest rock & roll film ever, Martin Scorsese’s 1978 documentary of The Band’s farewell concert (from Thanksgiving Day, 1976) is a gorgeous, lush-colored film that pulls the viewer into one of the most eclectic rock concerts ever. In between a greatest-hits selection of Band material, we are privileged to get performances from surprise guests ranging from Muddy Waters and Neil Young to Dr. John, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, famed beat poets Michael McClure and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Eric Clapton (don’t ask me what Neil Diamond was doing there because I don’t know).

On DVD, the film looks better than ever, and the optimal sound quality is a treat. Besides the music, other moving aspects of this haunting work are Scorsese’s memorable, drug-fueled interviews with the Band and, sadly, now-deceased members Richard Manuel (a brilliant musical burnout who later hung himself) and extremely talented bassist/singer Rick Danko, who died from an overdose more recently. The ‘70s hedonism of the day’s events, which included a full dinner for fans under the elegant crystal chandeliers of the Winterland Ballroom, affects almost every frame, which makes it even more magical that the performances are so rare and heartfelt.

This film has been an anxiously awaited addition to the DVD catalogue for good reason: Before now, the only available copies were worn video rentals. The extra DVD features include new 5.1 remastered Digital Audio, two revealing audio commentaries with the director and musicians, rare footage (which consists of a large swamp blues jam featuring Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, Young and Stephen Stills) and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Overall, a great, well-priced addition to any DVD catalogue—projects like this are what the medium is made for, in my opinion.