Levon Helm at Outside Lands Festival, San Francisco 8/14/10
Levon and a substantial 11 piece backup band played a rollicking, crowd pleasing set on a typical (cold, foggy) San Francisco summer afternoon. Set up in Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park as part of the 3 year old Outside Lands festival, Levon depended on the old back catalog to give the folks what they came to hear. Lucky for Levon, that old back catalog is pretty rich. We got “Ophelia” to open and “The Shape I’m In” to follow. A soulful version of “Long Black Veil” featured lots of daughter Amy Helm’s fine vocals. Levon played mandolin on “Deep Elem Blues” while sitting down surrounded by musician friends. He looked very happy.
A full five piece horn section added greatly to the mix and included tuba legend Howard Johnson. Larry Campbell is the bandleader these days and did a fine job on guitar and vocals which were much needed. Levon’s voice was beyond ragged but his smile was an acre wide and he seemed pleased as punch to pound the skins yet again.
The closing version of “The Weight” was to be expected but so good to hear none the less. This set while heavy on the classics never had the feel of a victory lap. If anything, Levon’s passion is undimmed and brimming with vitality and fire. Lets hope he feels like midnight rambling for many years to come.