Tonight, an all-star lineup of music legends will take the stage at New Jersey’s Izod Center for the “Love For Levon” concert. The concert, paying tribute to the late drummer/singer Levon Helm from The Band, who passed away in April, will feature Roger Waters, Joe Walsh, Gregg Allman, country singers Eric Church and Dierks Bentley, gospel legend Mavis Staples, and Helm disciples including My Morning Jacket, John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne, Lucinda Williams, Robert Randolph and Grace Potter. The “Love For Levon” website also mentions that other “legendary surprise guests” will perform. But who might those guests be? Here’s our educated guess:
(photo credit: Ronaldo Schemidt/Getty Images)
Ringo Starr : Levon Helm played drums and sang in the inaugural version of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band back in 1989. After Levon’s passing, Ringo posted the All-Starr Band’s live rendition of The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” from that tour to iTunes to raise money for MusiCares. Also, Ringo was a special guest at The Band’s “The Last Waltz,” sitting in for Levon on drums for the ensemble version of “I Shall Be Released.”
ODDS: 10-1 – Ringo isn’t based on the east coast, he isn’t on tour, and doesn’t usually show up at other people’s shows.
(photo credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Dr. John : The New Orleans legend played with Levon in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, and also performed with The Band at “The Last Waltz.” Plus, he has appeared at Helm’s “Midnight Rambles” (the concerts Helm held at his barn). Plus, the good Doctor is usually up for a good jam.
ODDS: 3-1 – He starts a tour on October 10 in Cerritos, California, so he isn’t booked tonight, and has probably been rehearsing lately.
(photo credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen : It’s just a drive up the New Jersey Turnpike for Bruce, who covered The Band’s classic “The Weight” shortly after Helm passed, saying that he was “One of the greatest voices in country and rock.” (That voice covered Bruce’s “Atlantic City” on The Band’s 1993 album, Jericho.) Also, E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren played in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band with Levon in 1989. E Street drummer Max Weinberg is a big fan also: in his 1984 book The Big Beat: Conversations With Rock’s Great Drummers, he wrote “Levon plays the drums and sings with a conviction and emotional intensity that rings true. That he does both at the same time is remarkable.” So Bruce might show up, and he might bring some E Streeters with him.
ODDS: 3-1 – Bruce’s tour is on break, they return to the road October 19 in Ottowa. And he’s known to show up at other people’s shows to jam.
(photo credit: Valery Heche)
Elton John: Sir Elton has always been vocal about his love for The Band, and specifically Helm. His 1971 classic “Levon” was named after Helm (Elton’s lyricist Bernie Taupin is a huge Band fan as well). Also, Elton named his kid after Helm: Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.
ODDS: 4-1 Elton doesn’t often show up unannounced, but he also doesn’t usually name his adopted son after a drummer. And his next scheduled show is October 10 in Vegas, so he could make the gig tonight.
(photo credit: Christopher Polk)
Bob Dylan: Dylan rarely posts personal messages to his website, but he did so after Helm’s passing. The Band got their start as Dylan’s backing group, and Helm’s set lists often included Dylan’s compositions.
ODDS: 5-1 – Dylan doesn’t often make surprise appearances. But he does have the night off: his tour has been on break since September 9, the next string of dates start October 5 in Winnipeg.
(photo credit: Tasos Katopodis)
Robbie Robertson: One of the two surviving members of The Band: keyboardist/sax player Garth Hudson will be there tonight, but Robertson, the band’s guitarist, songwriter and leader had a rocky relationship with Helm. Helm declined to attend The Band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 due to his disagreements with the guitarist. But Robertson visited Helm in the hospital before he passed away, and posted on his Facebook page: “I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together… Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.” A Robertson appearance could be the emotional highlight of the evening.
ODDS: 10-1…or on the other hand, it might not be. Helm never was shy about voicing his issues about Robertson, and Helm’s fans (who generally love not just his music, but the man himself) may not let bygones be bygones. Also, Robertson rarely performs in any context (his reluctance to play concerts was among the reasons the Band broke up, and he didn’t join them for their reunion albums or tours).
All net proceeds from the concert will help Helm’s estate keep ownership of his home, barn and studio, and to continue the “Midnight Ramble Sessions,” which Helm hosted and headlined in the last few years of his life. The event’s hashtag is #LoveForLevon so you can follow the show there, and we will have a report on the show shortly after it ends.
– Brian Ives, CBS Local