Marcus King welcomes special guests to put a southern rock spin on the best of “The Last Waltz”

By Matt Wickstrom

Marcus King, Four of a Kind

Marcus King capped off his “Four Of A Kind” virtual concert series Monday night from Nashville with a rotating cast of all-star musicians to perform a selection of hits from the soundtrack of the Martin Scorsese directed film “The Last Waltz” documenting the final performance of The Band.

Following a set opening performance of “Up On Cripple Creek” with the Marcus King Band being joined by Kate Barnette and Maggie Rose on backup vocals, King welcomed rockin’ blues vocalist Devon Gilfillian to the stage to sing and play electric guitar on “The Shape I’m In.”

Next was “I Shall Be Released,” which featured King’s trumpet player Justin Johnson move from the brass section to lead vocals for the song’s second verse before Maggie Rose moved from backup to lead vocals on the next song, “Stage Fright.”

Elizabeth Cook was next to the stage for a takeover on the honky tonky “Ophelia” before moving into Neil Young’s “Helpless,” in which King altered the song’s opening line to “There is a town in North Caroline” rather than the original “North Ontario” in addition to wielding a harmonica, which he later acknowledged was the first time performing with one on stage, albeit with nobody in the audience.

The lanky Nicki Bluhm then came out for a haunting cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote” ahead of recreations of “It Makes No Difference” and a breathtaking version of “Who Do You Love?” featuring Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean of rootsy duo Ida Mae on lead and harmony vocals, electric guitar and tambourine.

King then summoned Jennifer Hartswick, trumpeter for the Trey Anastasio Band, out for a cover of Eric Clapton’s “Further On Up The Road” and Dr. John’s “Such A Night,” both of which saw Hartswick alternate lead vocal duties with King in addition to fitting in a couple of boisterous trumpet solos. Succeeding Hartswick’s appearance the Marcus King Band went into a bluesy, southern rock breakdown of “Don’t Do It,” a song performed by The Band that actually originated from Marvin Gaye under the name “Baby Don’t You Do It.”

The guest sit-ins, which grew more grand with each occasion, reached their climax during an appearance from Early James on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” whose weathered yet youthful vocals paired with King’s horn section for a truly triumphant take on one of The Band’s staples.

The collective ended the show by welcoming all the night’s special guests back to the stage along with Sierra Ferrell for a blazing rendition of “The Weight” that saw King, James, Hartswick, Ferrell and the duo of Ida Mae all passing the baton on lead vocal duties on succeeding verses while the entire group joined in during each harmonious chorus.

The show and series’ epic finale provided just a small glimpse back into the old reality of summers filled with music festivals featuring sit-in after sit-in, a reminder that while things may not be what they used to they could also be far worse. It’s also a pleasant reminder that no matter how dire the circumstances, music will never die, and in cases like this its power grows even stronger.

The Marcus King Band on Aug. 3, 2020

Up On Cripple Creek
The Shape I’m In [1]
I Shall Be Released [2]
Stage Fright [3]
Ophelia [4]
Coyote [5]
It Makes No Difference
Who Do You Love? [6]
Further On Up The Road [7]
Such A Night [7]
Don’t Do It
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down [8]
The Weight [9]

[1] w/ Devon GilFillian
[2] w/Justin Johnson singing lead vocals on second chorus
[3] w/Maggie Rose
[4] w/Elizabeth Cook
[5] w/Nick Bluhm
[6] w/Ida Mae
[7] w/ Jennifer Hartswick
[8] w/Early James
[9] w/Sierra Ferrell and all previous special guests

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