The real Van Morrison, Bob Dylan & Robbie Robertson @ The Last Waltz


When "The Last Waltz" was screened in August at the Parkway Theater, it sold out. When a group of Twin Cities musicians reprised its annual tribute to "The Last Waltz" on Saturday, the Cabooze was sold out.

There’s good reason: Great music delivered by very good musicians with impressive passion.

For the uninitiated, "The Last Waltz," one of the greatest rock concert films of all time, was the swan-song show by the Band in San Francisco in 1976, featuring an all-star cast of guests. Martin Scorsese directed the movie. (The movie will be shown at 6 p.m. Monday on VH1 Classic.)

The Cabooze wasn’t Winterland ballroom, and there really weren’t any big-name local stars there. But this seventh annual event was a spirited, sweaty good time.

Props to a band (drummer Dave Russ’ word) who portrayed the Band: organizer Rob Hilstrom on piano and plaid as Richard Manuel, Russ on drums as Levon Helm, Chad Whittaker on bass as Rick Danko, Pete Sand on organ as Garth Hudson and Jon Herchert on guitar as Robbie Robertson. There was a horn section, too, and backup singers (as the Staple Singers) and a parade of guests as Ringo Starr, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, et al.

Jared Rush, who portrayed Dr. John, not only had the voice and piano chops but the look as well. The long-haired Gary Sklenar, who did Neil Diamond, had the voice and oversized glasses but not the look.

Dan Israel had the vocals down but was too excitable as Bob Dylan (sans wide-brimmed hat). Paul Metsa had the guitar chops to suggest Eric Clapton but not the voice on "Further on Up the Road." He also gave a shameless plug for his own memoir "Blue Guitar Highway," saying (in a British accent) that he’d picked up the book on a stopover at MSP airport and it seems like the author could have benefited from a stay at Clapton’s Crossroads rehab facility in the Caribbean.

Pat Hayes’ smokin’ harmonica made his impression of Paul Butterfield on "Mystery Train" feel authentic and it spiked Big George Jackson’s invigorating treatment of Muddy Waters’ "Mannish Boy," one of the night’s many highlights.

Big Pink, as the solid backup Band dubbed itself, got the crowd singing along on "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

But the unquestionable high point of this "Last Waltz" was Terry Walsh as Van Morrison on "Caravan" (just as it was at the actual concert, which I attended, and in the movie). Even though he’s quite a bit taller than Van the Man, Walsh had the voice, the mannerisms, the leg kicks and, most importantly, the outfit. A fan made Walsh a pair of brown velour pants (complete with lace-up front) like Van wore at "The Last Waltz," and Walsh even had a T-shirt with a deep neckline and a sequined-decorated brown jacket. Now if Walsh had only died his full head of brown hair reddish and perfected a comb-over...

Suggestion for next year: Get someone to portray Scorsese as emcee.

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