'The Last Waltz'
9 p.m. Dec. 18 at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $10. (859) 368-8871
Even with the most literal of intentions, there has never been anything final about The Last Waltz.
The event was staged on Thanksgiving night 1976 at the famed (now long defunct) San Francisco rock emporium Winterland. There, the five ground-breaking musicians known simply as The Band — onetime backup players for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan and creators of such masterful Americana songs as The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up on Cripple Creek — assembled for a final performance after a 16-year touring career.
The concert boasted a gallery of rock celebrities, including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and others. Martin Scorsese filmed the whole event while a subsequent multi-disc live album chronicled all of the music.
Of course, that wasn't really the end of The Band. After regrouping in the '80s without guitarist/composer Robbie Robertson, it lost keyboardist Richard Manual (he hung himself in a Florida hotel room after a 1986 show) and eventually recorded three albums of varying quality before bassist Rick Danko died in 1999.
A few years back, local pop pro Ray Smith of the Lexington band Tula decided that it would be a cool idea to stage a regional recreation of The Last Waltz as close to Thanksgiving weekend as possible by employing a legion of local artists as the special guests. The result was a coming-together of the Central Kentucky music scene that proved wildly popular. Initial performances at the original West Main locations of The Dame were sellouts.
And so Smith staged it again. And again. Now, the event still titled The Last Waltz is entering its fifth year.
The 2010 edition of the show comes at the tail end of the Christmas season, but its musical makeup will remain the same. Tula will be the house band, the guests will sing a song or two each, and by the end of the evening, roughly the same set list performed decades ago at Winterland — The Band's hits and the cover tunes — will be played.
This year's guest list will include Coralee, Otto Helmuth, Willie Eames, Karly Dawn Higgins, Brett Ratliff, Lee Owen, Brandon Bowlds, Robby Cosenza and more.
Cosenza takes special honors in local Last Waltz history for taking on what has long been considered the program's least-loved song, Neil Diamond's Dry Your Eyes. Diamond was invited to the Winterland even because Robertson produced the singer's then-newest album. Cosenza's rendition has been eerily and almost comically faithful to the Diamond original.
Otherwise, the main thing to keep in mind is that the Lexington Last Waltz concerts, which have become part of local music tradition, are almost always sellouts. The more expansive confines of Buster's ensure room for a bigger turnout. Still, expect little waltzing room on Saturday, when Tula strikes up The Band.
Speaking of musical holiday traditions that can pack a house, Monday brings the annual celebration of centuries-old holiday carols known as A Handefull of Christmas Delights. Presented by Musick's Company, the performance arm of Lexington's Center for Old Music in the New World, the concert show will be presented at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 2025 Bellefonte Rd. (8 p.m.; $10 public, $8 for seniors and $5 for students). General-admission tickets will be sold at the door, but the performances, year after year, are sellouts. In short, go early.
For more information, go to Centerforoldmusic.org.