Saturday: Levon | Rock Candy

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday: Levon

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 11:37 AM

unknown.jpg


Levon Helm
Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, June 22

When Levon Helm, the favorite son of Turkey Scratch, Ark., and the drummer for the Band, rolled into Wildwood Park on Saturday, the question wasn’t who would want to see him (everyone of a certain age in this state) it was, just who in Arkansas ponies up $125 and $200 for tickets to a show? Turns out, it’s who you’d expect: mostly well-heeled, mostly older, mostly white folks. (Grousing overheard at the reception: “Bunch of old hippies here.”) Coevals of Levon’s, in other words. Turns out you’ve got to earn in this life if you’re going to hear your heroes sing about hardship.

No telling how many people in the room paid face value, and how many ponied up for the privilege, but the 625-seat theater looked about 50 heads shy of a capacity crowd. Before the show, they were treated to a brief, cheeky biography of Levon (first-name basis here, only) as told, “This Is Your Life”-style, by his friends and admirers. Not least among those was Gov. Mike Beebe, who was a teenager when he first saw Levon drum. “He’s a prince, and we’re all very proud of him, and we’re glad he came back,” the guv said.

A nasty case of laryngitis kept Helm from so much as speaking to the crowd. Other reviewers along this tour have praised Helm’s voice as carrying “the added weight of mortality,” still quite capable after treatments for throat cancer. Alas, on Saturday the only whispers the crowd heard from the man Rolling Stone once named among its top 100 singers of all time were faint “one, two …” counts before he put sticks to snares.

That much he did with reassuring grace on a trap set downstage, and for a couple of songs, even took up the mandolin. With his silver hair parted at center, and his frame gaunt beneath his dress shirt, Levon’s health and advanced age (69 last month) was a subplot to his every move. When he finally did leave the stage after a 23-song set that closed with the Band’s “The Weight” and drew at least three standing ovations, he did so carrying a box of tissues under one arm.

Despite the prices, and despite the silence from the star, it’s doubtful anyone left the show feeling shorted. The 11-piece backing band, which included Levon’s daughter, Amy, on vocals, was impressive in every aspect (if overpolished at times) through a round of Southern rock and blues staples, with a swirl of zydeco. Brian Mitchell, on keyboard, showed how quickly an accordion can take over a stage full of horns and strings. Howard Johnson’s bari sax lead on “Natural Anthem” was a highlight, and when the five-man horn section began parading around the auditorium during “Mardi Gras Day,” the stuffed shirts in the house went from rowdy to delirious. Far from an Arkansan’s eulogy, you’d have thought a New Orleans funeral had broken out.

Sam Eifling

Favorite

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The Greedy on Issue 1 Edition

    Max and Lindsey talk about the nixing of Issue 1 from ballots, the removal of another 4,000 from Medicaid rolls because of a new work requirement rule and new reporting on Little Rock police abuse and bad behavior.
    • Oct 19, 2018
  • The Get Ready to Vote (And Show IDs) Edition

    Max and Lindsey talk about the week of political debates, the state Supreme Court’s ruling on key ballot initiatives, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola’s impending big payday and judicial matters.
    • Oct 12, 2018
  • R&B Cook-off winners

    Check out Times photographer Brian Chilson's shots and video from Sunday's R&B Cook-Off, our event in downtown North Little Rock to support the Argenta Downtown Council.
    • Oct 8, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Coming Monday: Little Rock Black Restaurant Week

    MoTown Monday is Ceci's Chicken and Waffles. Tasty Tuesday is Sims BBQ and Brewster's Soul Food Cafe. Wing Wednesday is Chicken King and Chicken Wangs. Soul Food Thursday is Lindsey's BBQ and Hospitality House and Food Truck Festival Friday is @station801. It's the first Black Restaurant Week.
    • Mar 8, 2017
  • New music from Isaac Alexander

    New music from Isaac Alexander.
    • Jul 14, 2017
  • No Small Talk Ep. 8: Katy Henriksen, Springs Arts preview

    A packed episode this week of "No Small Talk": a chat with Katy Henriksen, from Of Note on KUAF; Stephanie Smittle breaks down the Spring Arts issue; and we finish up with just a tiny bit of Oscar chatter.
    • Mar 9, 2018

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation