“This movie should be played loud,” flashes across a screen in the Athena Cinema as the sounds of gritty guitars and heavy drums bellow from the surrounding speakers. As the film “The Last Waltz” begins, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm take the stage one last time as The Band.
“The Last Waltz,” produced by Martin Scorsese and released in 1978, captures The Band’s final performance at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1976. After 16 years on the road, the emotion emanating from each of the members was nearly tangible through the screen. The Athena gave The Band fans in Athens a chance to experience this emotion one more time.
The Band had made a name for themselves and attracted fans from all over the world, but according to Rolling Stone Magazine’s bio of the group, the Canadian-American rock band was still only known to some as, “the group that backed Bob Dylan.” However, once The Band takes the stage in “The Last Waltz,” instruments in tow, the energy they bring to the stage nearly defines rock and roll.
Not only does The Band take control of the stage with bold sound and unique style, but as a farewell gift to fans, they also invite multiple rock icons onstage with them. Icons such as Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell and Muddy Waters added their own styles to The Band’s music to create a night of one of a kind performances.
Between the performances, Scorsese cuts to an interview with the band members about their time spent together.
“[The music] took us everywhere,” guitarist Robbie Robertson says. “Physically and spiritually.”
Nostalgia seeps through the theater screen as The Band remembers “the beginning of the end of Tin Pan Alley.” The Band reached their peak popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, so the strip of recording studios in New York City known as Tin Pan Alley was instrumental in building their careers. There, the band met songwriters such as Carole King and Neil Diamond.
As the film reaches the end, every guest artist joins The Band on stage for one final song. After the performance, the screen slowly fades to the credits as The Band stands alone onstage. The bright orange text of the credits begins to roll up the screen, and The Band bids farewell to fans one more time.