Rick Danko Came to Party
Rick Danko - In Concert at The Paradise Theater, Tuesday
by Jim Sullivan
From the Boston Globe, October 9, 1980.
The text is copyrighted, please do not copy or redistribute.
"Is everybody getting enough to drink?" asked ex-Band bassist Rick Danko
from the Paradise stage, concerned that, as the party's host, he might have
neglected a few details.
No worry. Despite a small crowd, the spirits - alcoholic and otherwise - were
flowing in abundance. Danko treated the Paradise as his living room and spent the
evening playing songs to a few friends and walking the tightrope between seriousness
and absurdity. He fell off on the absurd side more than a few times.
On stage and off, Danko is the Bill Murray of the rock world. His lopsided smile,
his loopy comments (an exaggerated, mock-theatrical "We love you, Boston!") and his
apparent disorientation quickly knock him off the rock star pedestal. But his
looseness sometimes works against the music. In the moving ballad "It Makes No
Difference," Danko couldn't help but interject a deadpan, "It's a long song" midway
through. It distanced him (and us) from the emotional impact and muted its effect.
Inevitably, Danko's four-man group doesn't transmit the ensemble intensity or magic
of the Band. Still, Danko's good-timey blues-rock works a low-key charm. The group
functions smoothly, but leaves enough ragged edges - notably evidenced in Blondie
Chaplin's stinging leads - to give the music bite. "Java Blues," J.J. Cale's "Crazy
Mama" and Elvis' classic "Mystery Train" boasted intricate and exciting syncopation
among Danko, Chaplin and keyboardist Howard Larava.
Danko is a man of complex, sometimes contradictory, impulses. Backstage after the
show, he flits from one topic to another like a slightly crazed honeybee. As he
downs beers, he pontificates about alcoholism: "An unsuccessful alcoholic doesn't
have any fun; a successful alcoholic looks forward to not having any fun." Later,
Danko unflinchingly lets a flame from his cigarette lighter lick his outstretched
Former Band members Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson are acting in movies. How about
Danko, who hasn't made an album in several years? Any interest in film? He says he's
been in two. "I'm a star in one and a big distraction in the other," he says,
refusing to name them because of "karma."
Danko is asked about the Band's "The Last Waltz," their majestic swan-song concert
which was made into a film by Martin Scorcese. Danko calls it "a desperation move."
The Band itself? "We will make another record very soon," he says, "and I mean very
soon." Touring? "I don't think we'll ever tour again," although he
wryly notes, "Every eight years the Band gets together to play with Bob Dylan."
(True, they joined forces for tours in 1965 and 1973.)
"I am Bob Dylan's friend," pronounces Danko with mock pomposity. Then, in a
childlike voice, he sings, "I know Bob, I know Bob," before stating he respects
Dylan's new-found vocal conviction.
"I have come to party, and this is but the first stage of what a good time can be,"
Danko declared to no one in particular. Later, he collected the leftover beer in a
plastic trash bag and hauled it off with him to a new frontier.
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