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'The Last Waltz'
Such a night

THOUGH TIME HAS unfairly relegated the Band to a '60s rock footnote (oh, they were the electrified "Judas" Dylan's backing band, right?), their supple fables of Americana landscapes and sonic archaeology of folk, country rock, and traditional sounds made them a force to be reckoned with back in the day. So when Band leader Robbie Robertson decided to celebrate 16 years on the road with one last Thanksgiving shindig at San Francisco's Winterland in 1976, he invited a few high-profile friends, director Martin Scorsese, and a camera crew to join the party. The missing link between twin concert-film hallmarks Woodstock and Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz is more than just a testament to a historic night of music; Scorsese's deft, rhythmic editing and the stylized performance pieces (the minimalist power of "The Weight," shot post-concert in an abandoned hall, blows today's bloated production numbers on MTV right out of the water) make this a near-perfect melding of sight and sound. The guests paying their respects range from the iconic (Clapton, Dylan, Muddy Waters) to the ironic (Neil Diamond), which makes for some unforgettable moments – Robertson trading leads with Clapton on "Further on down the Road," the entire performance by Dylan (described as looking like "a Christ in a white hat"). But it's a throwaway shot of drummer Levon Helm stopping mid-conversation to light Robertson's cigarette that sums up the swan song perfectly: this concert wasn't about the end of an era so much as it was about a group of friends who survived together in the trenches saying an emotional musical good-bye. The Last Waltz returns to the Castro with a remastered soundtrack, and you can bet that its pre-credit advice will be heeded: "This film should be played LOUD." See Rep Clock for show times. (David Fear)