The Roaming Roots Revue with Amy Helm, Beth Orton & Lau. The idea was to carry on the tradition of Amy’s dad Levon Helm who was one of the founding members of rock band The Band who would have grand “Hootenannies” with some of the biggest names in the music business. These shindigs would be called “Midnight Rambles” and with Levon sadly passing last year in April his daughter Amy Helm has taken it upon herself to continue the tradition and brought it to the Celtic Connections Festival this year along with contemporary artists on both sides of the Atlantic to celebrate Levon Helm’s contribution to music.
Amy acted merely as an overseer of events as well as joining in with some of the acts meaning that Scottish act Roddy Hart and his band The Lonesome Fire were to act as compere for the evening introducing the acts and kicking of the evening with The Band classic “Stagefright”. Following that quickly we are introduced to another Scottish act Lau, a three piece who start with one of their own songs “Save the Bees” before performing their own version of The Bands “Unfaithful Servant” to a crowd full of wolf whistles and roaring applaud, the night is officially in full swing. Up next was Corey Chisel and Adriel Harris of Corey Chisel and The Wandering Sons fame and, as Roddy claimed fresh from their performance on The David Letterman Show. Corey was going to regale the crowd with his own “Ramble” with Levon but when the audience claimed that they had never seen one he said“Great, now I can make up whatever I like”. After some more banter was exchanged Corey and Adriel would perform one of their own songs and then, backed by Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fireperformed “Paint My Masterpiece”. They way the acts sets were worked out were becoming a bit more formulaic in that one of theirs and then one of Levon’s. This was great however as each performers own back catalogue fitted nicely into events.
Scott Hutchinson guitarist and lead singer of Frightened Rabbit took to the stage with fellow band mate Gordon Skene who seemed to be dragging his heels a bit as Scott described the feeling of “Die on my own arse then”. Eventually Gordon sauntered on stage and they performed “Old Old Fashioned” but promised they would be back to help “murder” some The Band songs later. Next up was Rachel Sermanni to sing “Song to a Fox”, after which Amy Helm and Lau appeared to help Rachel with a Grateful Dead track that Levon sang on “Tennessee Jed” showing that it will perhaps be a broader scope of Levon Helms work than just his time with The Band taking the mellow mood left by Scott and Gordon and getting it back into a more upbeat mood. The audience are charged eager to see who was up next. Roddy Hart before too long introduces the crowd to Ben Knox Millerlead singer of The Low Anthem who tells us of his harrowing near miss of his flight in London and his fear of performing without his band which he hasn’t done since he was 17. Audience endeared and engaged he plays one of his new songs which was about the loss of his own dad “Smart Flesh” taking the night in a sombre direction. The next artist is Scottish alt folk singer and songwriter Beer Jacketwho although is struggling due to technical difficulties was cheered on by the crowd and finished before getting to his contribution to the night with Bruce Springsteen song “Atlantic City” which he claims The Band covered and made a better version of on their album “Jericho”. This brings us to the end of the first half of the “Roaming Revue” which so far has been great giving the audience the chance to explore Levon helms as a songwriter and musician in a fresh light and giving us also a chance to see what was going on in music today inspired by his work be it from the UK or America.
Before long everyone is quickly downing their drinks at the bar before rushing back to their seats before we are greeted with Roddy Hart and his band with “Up on Cripple Creek” which gets the audience back in the mood before he brings on the next act of the evening. This comes in the form of Irish songstress Gemma Hayes who brings an intimate atmosphere with her song “Shock to the System”. Joining her for her composition of “It Makes no Difference” was Rachel Sermanni, Ben Knox Miller and Amy Helm. Shortly after Louis Abbott of Admiral Fallow fame takes the stage and performs a brilliant version of his song “Isn’t This World Enough??” keeping the mood left by Gemma Hayes going following it up with Amy Helm “helping with the bum notes” as Louis described it on “Ophelia”. Ben Knox Miller returns to the stage with Lau quipping that it is the one time appearance of “The Lau Anthem” giving us a great rendition of “Ain’t No More Cane” which was from Bob Dylan and The Bands record “The Basement Tapes”. Amy Helms finally takes centre stage for a change to thank everyone for coming and thank the artists involved with making this Roaming Revue possible and treats us to a song from Levon Helms last album called “Wide River to Cross”. Roddy Hart returns shortly after to introduce us to our last act of the evening. This was of course Beth Ortonaccompanied by Sam Amidon her violinist for the evening playing some of her own songs including “Call Me the Breeze” (not a Skynyrd cover) from her new album “Sugaring Seasons” before too long she is joined on stage by Lau and Rachel Sermanni for Beth’s favourite The Band track “Acadian Driftwood” claiming “I know it’s a bit long but still a good one”.
At the close of what was a stellar night all the artists return and populate the stage to again thank the crowd for showing up and gives the audience their encore which included the classics “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight”. A great end to a great 2 hour show which catered brilliantly to both hardcore fans of The Band and Levon but also served as an introduction to his work and more contemporary music that’s out just now which kept the audience enthralled form start to finish.