The Band answers all questions Monday night
by Amanda FierReview of The Band's concert at the C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, April 22, 1996, in Ames, Iowa. Published in The Iowa State Daily, Wednesday, April 24, 1996. The text is copyrighted, please do not copy or redistribute.
The evening opened with a "Good Morning," and a man by the name of Rob Lumbard sat himself down on a stool on the stage of C.Y. Stephens.
He introduced himself to the crowd and began to sing and pluck his guitar. This Des Moines man's fingers danced up and down his acoustic guitar, producing bluegrass ditties and songs about life and work in a bar.
He was chatty with the audience and triple phat with talent. His performance included an old Muddy Waters tune and finished with a Russian folk song with a dark, raw accent and witty lyrics. The song filled the auditorium with laughs and smiles and was clearly a fun way to start off the night.
Not too long after, an unknown guy came out and approached the microphone, "Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you, The Band." The crowd members got on their feet and clapped as the members took their places on stage. They came to do business, and without a word, dove into their music.
It was clear that the South had an impact on the sound, as did Bob Dylan and other '60s musicians. The set-up was simple but appropriate to fit the task. Two guitar sets, two keyboards, a bass guitar and and an electric guitar centered on the stage with these six musicians, making remarkable music.
It was difficult to see Levon Helm and Randy Ciarlante behind their drums, but they took turns playing bass when frontman Rick Danko went acoustic. One would not guess these men had not been playing on stage very long because their expertise and talent took them to them where they were going.
Garth Hudson, one of the original three members (Helm and Danko being the other two), with his head down and the top of his hat pointing at the crowd, poured his soul into his keyboard.
From time to time, he stood and played saxophones of all sizes that sang the blues to the audience. These solos were the only time the audience could sneak a peak at his bearded face.
Danko and newer guitarist, Jim Weider, smiled at one another once in a while as they picked the strings. Richard Bell, formerly of Janice Joplin's Tilt and Boogie Band, tickled the ivories. His legs would dance away from the foot pedals whenever the opportunity permitted.
Danko and Helm sang lead vocals throughout the concert, and Ciarlante sang harmonious back-up from behind the drum set. It was somewhat wacky when drummers Helm and Ciarlante sang vocals.
It took a moment to detect from where the sound was rooted on the stage. But the sound that we did hear was melodious: rich with rock and blues, yet complimented with country-like undertones.
The Band's limitless professionalism and abilities received many standing ovations after songs. Bassist and vocalist Danko humbly mumbled an occasional "Thank you" to the appreciative audience. The performers' words were few, but their smiles were many as they were doing what they do best.
They ended the performance with "Shape I'm In," which was preceded by the song "Free Your Mind,"which was done by pop group En Vogue a few years back. This version was full of groove tunes, unusual instrumentals and ear-friendly combinations.
Hatman Hudson came out and played an unbelievable, soothing keyboard interlude that became "Toccata and Fugue" as The Band took back the stage and the piano shifted to a more upbeat tempo. The Band played a few more jams before it called it a night.
I had not heard of The Band until recently, but I am now a fan and will probably purchase its disk. The members were amazing entertainers, and they played a show unlike any other I have seen.
The experience was memorable, and I would recommend hitting a show. The Band's history is rich and its show delivers the quality and the sonic sound unique to The Band.