Plays On (Screamer-05042/43)
Music Inn, Lennox, MA – July 18th, 1976
Disc 1 (46:09): Intro., Don’t Do It, Shape I’m In, It Makes No Difference, The Weight, King Harvest, Twilight, Ophelia, Tears Of Rage
Disc 2 (40:52): Forbidden Fruit, This Wheel’s On Fire, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Genetic Method/Chest Fever, Up On Cripple Creek, Life Is A Carnival
The tape source used for Plays On is the common source that has circulated for years. It makes its silver debut on Screamer and is excellent quality. All of the instruments are clear and listenable with an emphasis upon the high end. There is a consistent call from audience members for others to “sit down” between songs. The only cut is at the very beginning of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, losing the first couple of notes.
Although not perfect, this is highly enjoyable and one of the better audience recordings from The Band’s final tour. They played two shows in at the Music Inn in Lenox in the summer of 1976, the next one being on August 29th. It makes sense they played this western Massachusetts community that is close to Woodstock, NY and Stockbridge, MA (made famous by Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”). A deep seriousness hangs over The Band and their music. “Don’t Do It” starts the show off in a rocking mood and continues through with “Shape I’m In”.
But it hits a more reflective mood with Rick Danko’s melancholy vocals in “It Makes No Difference” and “The Weight”. “King Harvest” with its truly bizarre melody highlights the first set. The only real levity is provided by keyboardist Garth Hudson on his “Genetic Method / Chest Fever” piece. The final pieces, “The Night” through to “Cripple Creek” segue together into a bit of a medley. Paul Butterfield and Howard Johnson join the band for the encore “Life Is A Carnival” with Johnson’s tuba being very loud.
Plays On is the first Band release on Screamer and is packaged with several rather bland pictures on the sleeve, but is an overall very good document of their final tour together.