Posted on 2013/07/28 01:58
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GARTH HUDSON(The Band/The Last Waltz) featuring Sister Maud Hudson

It was difficult to know what to expect from Garth Hudson’s headlining gig at the Field of Heaven Sat. night. Though one could expect a fairly top-heavy Band tribute, Hudson’s role in that august organization was mostly technical. He provided expert arranging expertise and instrumental rigor, but he didn’t sing or write, so his claim on the Band’s legacy is mostly incidental.

His secret weapon at the Field of Heaven was his wife, Maud, who was wheeled out rather dramatically in her wheelchair in front of a music stand presumably with the songs she would sing. And sing she did. Despite her obvious infirmity (she wore a baseball cap and dark glasses, as well as very thick clothing) she’s a powerful blues singer, and even delivered an effectively bawdy original number, whose chorus asserted that in order to “make love” one had to be “agile, mobile, and hostile.” Is Garth up to it?

Thanks to a bass player whose name I didn’t catch but whose voice captured that special mournful quality of Danko and Manuel (Maud should have done the Levon songs), many of the Band numbers came off well, especially “Ain’t No Difference,” a song that seemed to capture the audience’s imagination as fully as the more famous  “I Shall Be Released,” which ended the two-hour set. He was sure to play “The Weight,” too, seemingly at Maud’s insistence. Curiously truncated was “The Genetic Method,” the improvisational piece that opens “Chest Fever” in live stints. Hudson, who remained almost invisible behind his bank of keyboards, tossed off the intro, but burrowed deep into the song itself. It was an amazingly eclectic gig–jazz, gospel, even a Spanish song–though predictably lacking in drama. When he talked Garth was invariably incoherent, not because he couldn’t string sentences together but due to that laconic Canadian accent of his. But we like him that way. It adds to the mystery. -Phil