The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Levon Helm: Brooklyn Bowl 4 June 2012

This was a show I was looking forward to. The concert was organized by Noah Chernin (Sam Champion) to help continue Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles in his barn in Woodstock. The back-up band was Marco Benevento (keyboards), Dave Dreiwitz (bass) Scott Metzger (guitar), and Joe Russo (drums) from Led Zeppelin cover band Bustle in Your Hedgerow. Members of Levon’s band (Brian Mitchell (keyboards) and Jim Wieder (guitar)) also showed up and Adam Schatz (Search and Restore) sang along with the Diamond Doves’ when they did three songs, which included Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore.” The Diamond Doves’ had a horn section and the tuba on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” was perfection. Also perfect were the three female back-up singers.

I’m not that good at recognizing all these players. It is thanks to the Village Voice review that you’re getting these names and a setlist at the end of this write-up.

rtb and I were also looking forward to eating bbq but the restaurant around the corner from the Bowery Bowl is closed on Mondays. We walked down to Bedford Street and found a nice seafood restaurant. Pricey but the food was good. Plus we had delicious blood red orange margaritas.

We stood at the bar in the club waiting for the show to start. I knew from the last time that we’d been there that rtb was going to move into the crowd as soon as the music started. In the meantime we talked about how bootleg albums used to be actual vinyl albums or reel-to-reels. And I was feeling old. But then I found out that she has never seen The Last Waltz. Probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, concert film ever made. I got to see it when it was first released at the Ziegfeld Theater. So my age is an advantage there. The club is full of screens and the show opened with a scene from the film with a very very young Robbie Robertson and Levon talking. The crowd was too loud for me to hear it but it was amazing to see their young faces.

The show opened with “Ophelia” and rtb was off into the crowd. I cannot stand up in the middle of that big of a crowd but I did move to the end of the bar for a better view. Then the basketball game came on one screen closest to the bar and the hockey game on the other so I couldn’t see the stage unless people moved their heads in exactly the right way.

Still I had a wonderful time. No one changed the songs much. Craig Finn (The Hold Steady) added his herky jerky movements to “Jemima Surrender” and “Yazoo Street Scandal” and Kelli Scarr did a beautiful soulful version of “King Harvest.” I was never a huge fan of Nicole Atkins but after she sang “Whispering Pines” the bartender was asking me her name because it sounded so pretty. It was also about that time that the sound got better. With so many people on stage and so many changes I think it took a while for the sound person to catch up.

There were some young guys next to me who knew all the words to “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and I was surprised but then realized I shouldn’t be. When I was their age I could sing a lot of the Big Band songs by heart. Another young guy was drumming along, so I asked him who his favorite drummers were and he was at a loss! I suggested maybe Levon?

There are several problems hanging back near the bar. The crowd is talking. And I keep shaking my head at the orders – Ketel and grapefruit? Makers and ginger ale? There was also a barback who looked like a young Jack and that was very distracting.

But none of that could take me away from the great music. I don’t agree with the Voice review that no one brought much of themselves to the party. The crowd wanted and needed (as did the musicians) faithful renditions so we could participate in this love letter to Levon. Especially at the end when everyone was on stage for “The Weight.”



Slippin’ & Slidin’

Back to Memphis

Ain’t No More Cane

Look Out Cleveland

Jemima Surrender

Yazoo Street Scandal

When I Paint My Masterpiece


Whispering Pines

Dirt Farmer

Don’t Ya Tell Henry

Don’t Do It

Up on Cripple Creek

W.S. Walcott Medicine Show

Rag Mama Rag


King Harvest

Anna Lee


Long Black Veil

I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore

Mystery Train

(I Don’t Want to) Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes

Deep Elem Blues

Shape I’m 

I Shall Be Released

The Weight

By Carene Lydia Lopez