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May 23, 1978 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1978-05-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Page 6-Tuesday, May 23, 1978-Th
Bromb(
By R. J. SMITH
First, the good news: In four shows
last Saturday and Sunday at the Ark,
David Bromberg sold out. The singer
has donated all the proceeds to the cof-
feehouse, netting them a hefty sum.
The bad news is that if the second
show Sunday was any indication, then
this self-styled "dangerous man" isn't
very much of a threat to anyone.
Probably, he was tired; he was as in-
terested in telling jokes and picking out
commercials on his guitar as he was in
playing any songs. And certainly, he
was a little hesitant in choosing many of
the songs he played, as he had left his
band and the "tiresome" promotional
Michigan DAILY
campaign behind, at least momentarily
to play at the Ark. His only accom-
paniment was bassist Nancy
Josephson. But therewas much of the
show that just reflected bad judgement
and poor taste.
HE BEGAN the show with a handful
of dope-related songs that were
generally funny and sly, but did not
exactly leave anything lasting with the
audience. A fast-moving bluegrass
number soon followed, exhibiting
patented quick picking up-and-down
runs that maykdemonstrate great vir-
tuosity, but don't seem to have much
feeling to them.
He fluctuated generally between
mean, low-down blues, and easy-going
country tunes with demonstrative
picking. But whatever he sang, it was
hard for me to take him seriously once
he opened his mouth. Bromberg's voice
does not have a vibrato, nor does it
many a time succeed in bending the
note it wishes to bend. Instead, he sort
of wobbles around a note, eventually at-
taining by hitting all its neighbors on
the scale.
When he took it easy vocally and did
not try to make his voice do things it
was not made to, Bromberg could effec-
tively put across emotions. A song writ-
ten at the Ark, "Sweet, Sweet Sad-
ness," was crooned well. A tune I
believe entitled "Mr. Blue" was quite
engaging, and a Utah Phillips song
called either "Going Away" or "Long
Gone" (the singer, bassist Nancy
Josephson, could not recall which) was
sung sweetly. But moments like these
were few.
INSTEAD, WHAT we got for the most
part were Bromberg's own songs,
which were often pretty ridiculous
lyrically, and Bromberg cutting up
before, during and after songs, whether
the numbers were comical or serious.
Aren't there any better ways to expose
people to bluegrass than to recite rid-
dles from Hee Haw (Q. Say, farmer,
how do you catch a rabbit? A. Hide
behind a bush and act like a carrot!"),
amidst a spirited instrumental.
I have developed a theory about
David Bromberg, and about much of
this "Folk revival" that someone sure
is talking about. Actually, this new
wave of folkies are all punks (in the J.
Rotten sense), or vice versa.
In the best tradition of a group like
the Ramones, Bromberg and his
audience take nothing seriously. All
through the show were countless
satirical thrusts at all the things the
Ramones aboT.V

e Michigan Daily
erg too c
But Bromberg does the Ramones one
better, for while the Ramones have to
shout "I don't care about this song" a
mind-numbing amount of times, Brom-
berg delivers the message easily.
The punks are trying to build a com-
munity, a lifestyle that sometimes
reacts with anger, but at least with
humor aimed at the outside world. A lot
of those thugs with pins in their lips
really think their music has been
slighted.
But I think Bromberg has them beat:
all Sunday evening, while taking shots
at Donnie and Marie, Joni Mitchell,
"sensitive folksingers who want to get
laid a lot," FM radio, and so forth,
Bromberg kept alluding to this thing he
called "true folk music," and he spoke
of people who "just weren't folkies."
Talk about building up a strong com-
munity, a folkie faction just may show
those punks - it may even start a
revolution! -
I wonder if Bromberg has heard that
old story about Louis Armstrong. When
Satchmo was asked if he played "folk
music," he said something like: "folk
music? What's folk music? I ain't never
heard a horseplay no music!"

ute for comfort

David Bromberg

Two looks at 'The Last Waltz'

By PETER McCARUS
The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's film of The Band's
last concert, is also the story of five musicians and why
they decided to give up life on the road. To someone who
knows either very little or very much about the Band's
history, the interviews spaced throughout the concert
footage-most of them with Band lead guitarist and main
composer Robbie fIobertson-may seem protracted.
Knowing something in between, I enjoyed the chit-chat,
being curious about the members of a band I've always
liked.
There are moments of honest nostalgia, often very fun-
ny, such as keyboard player Garth Hudson telling how he
had to join The Band on the pretext of giving the other four
members music lessons to keep his parents happy. Hud-
son is a massive man with a lusty beard, and looks as if he
could lifta piano with one hand and play it with the other.
The interviews capture the diversity of the five men.
Robertson, Hudson, as well as Rick Danko, Levon Helm,
and Richard Manual, speak affectionately of their sixteen
years together, but seem ready to end it-they're all tired.
BUT DON'T go to The Last Waltz to hear Rick Danko
tell stories about stealing bologna, go to see The Band in
concert with their friends. The performances are all wor-
th seeing, with the exception of the embarrassing
moment when Lawrence Ferlinghetti comes onstage to
read a silly version of The Lord's Prayer, done up Califor-
nia Poet-style.
Go to The Last Waltz to see Neil Diamond sing one of his
macho songs while dressed like a used-car salesman; to
see drummer-singer Levon Helm attack his drums like a
wonded Confederate general spurring on his horse; to see
Robbie Robertson resembling a mixture of Mick Jagger
and Tony Curtis as he plays his guitar.
Finally, see The Last Waltz not only because of what it
is-an honest movie filled with exciting performances by
comfy old rock stars, like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and
Eric Clapton-but also because of what it avoids:sch-
maltzy "Well, this is it, boys-dry your eyes and play one
last time",crappolah. And the title does suggest that the
movie might be full of it.
Fortunately, it is not. If there were personal conflicts,
they are, not exploited here. There is no sentimentality
until the final number, in which everyone involved comes
onstage to sing "I Shall be Released." The final piece in
the movie (recorded separately, on a sound stage) is a
mildly corny last instrumental waltz, played by the Band
as they drift slowly away into the credits. But there is no
harm done. The Last Waltz is a sincere movie about a
group of sincere musicians who simply decided to call it
quits after sixteen hard years on the road.

By R. J. SMITH
It's hard to envision a rock band sticking together for 16
years, especially in today's recording climate. Feeling is
often shuttled off into the distahce, as backup singers,
rhythm units, faceless studio musicians etc., are slapped
onto recording tracks for countless forgettable snappy
tunes.
It is the product and the marketing that are the impor-
tant factors-and yet, there is something American about
all that, for esteemed self-denial in the name of the end
r" 7
Thi e record
result has given us much. The assembly line and the
manufactured sound of a band like Foreigner are both
testimonial to it.
But in their own way, The Band (four Canadians and an
Arkansas drummer) will always seem to have a firmer
grasp on whatever can be labeled American. Picked up in
Toronto by a rock and roll screamer named Ronnie
Hawkins, they were crisscrossing the country and playing
in side shows, honkeytonks and juke joints when they were
still in their mid teens. Soaking up the sounds of countless
regional idioms from around the U.S., their music at its
best was not a copy of the sounds they heard but a
distillation of them.
THE PLAYED with great humor and openness, with
much respect for history, But they knew what history
hadn't told us yet-and they saw much left to be decided.
When they supported Bob Dylan on some of his mid-sixties
tours, they played with a power-drenched madness; later,
on their own, they would often play with a toned-down
campfire folksiness.
Closing in on two decades on the road, The Band decided
to stop touring in 1976. Playing their last set at Winter-
land, where they first played as The Band eight years ago,
they recorded the event on a 24-track tape machine.
The resulting package, the three record "Last Waltz,"
is like an old Irish funeral: a lot of friends are invited to a
suitably large place, and soon a great deal of noise ,is
made about the past. Something, however, goes out of
kilter on the records. The guests too often sound like a
relative strangers, and soon enough the whooping
becomes a bit too grating, ever for the closest acquaintan-
ce.
THE BAND tried to assemble "some of the greatest
-% See THE LAST, Page 11

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