By 1976 The Band were on their last legs, after more than sixteen years of non-stop touring the stresses of the road had taken their toll. The members agreed to one last show, to be played on Thanksgiving 1976 at the famed Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The show would feature several notable guest appearances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, and Eric Clapton amongst others. I have always found this ironic, given that Rock and Roll is big business today with the attendant merchandising and multi-media cash cow to feed, that a group like The Band that still had tremendous commercial appeal would just hang it up. Times were less cynical I suppose.
— The Selvedge Yard on The Band’s The Last Waltz
Though I’m a fan of The Band and Scorsese, I think The Selvedge Yard is giving far too much credit to Robertson & Co. for being zen. The famously self-important Robbie broke up the band and — though it’s a hoot to watch — The Last Waltz has always seemed like a clear act of auto-hagiographical aggrandizement to me. That’s not meant to take anything away from the musicianship of the group — who were at the height of their powers — but to forget the massive egos behind these humble songs, especially at this period in the band’s career, is akin to forgetting just how expensive that set of china in your parent’s cabinet was upon purchase while admiring its craftmanship as you lament the fact that the set doesn’t get pulled out nearly enough.