Musician and Actor Levon Helm (Born Mark Lavon Helm), best known as the Drummer for The Band, has passed away on April 19, 2012 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 71 years old. I was fortunate to see Levon play drums once, during a taping of the the short-lived Sundance TV Show, Spectacle, which was hosted by Elvis Costello. Levon appeared on the Build a Band episode, where he was joined by fellow musical legends such as Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson and Allen Toussaint. What an amazing set those guys put together! The East Portland Blog has an excellent Obit and remembrance of Levon’s life at This Link that’s both heartfelt and extremely compelling. Worth checking out even, or perhaps especially, if you didn’t know much about him. RIP, Levon. You will be missed.
Elvis Costello Hosts Spectacle On The Sundance Channel
A few days ago – actually it was the night I returned home from my whirlwind trip to Reunionpalooza in California – I got an email from my friend Jamie inviting me to go see Elvis Costello with her at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. When I first read her email, because I was delirious and not really paying attention, I thought this would be a standard Elvis Costello concert performance. But it turned out that the show we went to last night was a taping for this program called Spectacle, which runs on the Sundance Channel. It’s a regular weekly TV series, hosted by Elvis Costello, where he interviews and performs with various iconic musicians and celebrities. Elton John is the show’s Executive Producer, which explains so much.
Photo By Jamie Moroni
Last night was the “Build a Band” show, where an impressive selection of different musicians were introduced over the course of the two-hour taping (I believe the show runs for an hour), each one chatting with Elvis about his musical career and then performing one or more of his songs with Elvis and his longtime band, The Imposters. Elvis’s guests were singer Nick Lowe, who produced Costello’s first five albums, prolific songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson, legendary pianist and songwriter Allen Toussaint – who has evidently written every song known to man – and the fabulous Levon Helm, drummer for The Band. Songs that I actually knew the names of included “Blame It On Cain,” which Elvis performed with the Imposters as a warm up, Allen Toussaint’s “Fortune Teller” and “Certain Girl” (popularized by the late Warren Zevon), Nick Lowe’s “The Beast In Me” (which he wrote for Johnny Cash) and what is inarguably The Bands’ best-known song, “The Wait” for which folk singer Ray LaMontagne joined the group on vocals. Eclectic!
Going to the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Elvis Costello tape a TV show was really fun and a very different kind of thing to do on a weeknight. Plus, Elvis is so cool and rad (Favorite Elvis Costello Song: “New Amsterdam”). He really should record books on tape for kids, because his speaking voice is just hypnotic. The Apollo Theater is gorgeous and comfy, and even though neither Jamie nor I had ever been as far uptown as 125th street, we were joking that “Harlem is just like a normal place!” because that is what we do. The “A” train back downtown was also well-air conditioned, un-crowded and really fast. I was on 14th street in about 20 minutes, and home by 11:00 PM. Last but not least, Jamie is the most hilarious person, so we had fun hanging out and acting like idiots together. Good Times.