Levon Helm celebrated his 70th birthday this past Saturday with a Midnight Ramble at the barn studio/performance space located on his property outside Woodstock, NY. Though the former Band drummer will celebrate his 70th with a guest-heavy performance at Hunter, NY’s Mountain Jam, Saturday’s performance focused on Helm and his band. The evening began with a BBQ and performance by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen. Later, Helm took the stage with his expansive backing band, which features his daughter Amy Helm, guitarists Larry Campbell and Jim Weider, bassist Byron Isaacs, keyboardist Brian Mitchell, singer Teresa Williams and a full horn section. Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen, who is married to Amy Helm’s mother, also performed with the ensemble thought its set.
Though Helm has scaled back how many songs he can sing due to recent vocal strain, the drummer sang lead on “Ophelia,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “The Weight” and the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” as well as background on several other selections. Meanwhile, Fagen took the reigns on Steely Dan’s “Black Friday,” The Band’s “King Harvest” and the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.”
Helm also received a special birthday treat: each member of the audience was presented with a candle on a cupcake which, as the house lights went down, lit the entire barn. After Helm took the stage, a spotlight was placed on the drummer, who was presented with a huge birthday cake imprinted with his photo.
The drummer’s birthday celebration will continue at Hunter, NY’s Mountain Jam on June 6. Fagen, Warren Haynes, Ray LaMontagne, Sam Bush, Steve Earle, Patterson & David Hood, Jackie Greene and Allison Moorer are among the guests scheduled to join Helm during his 70th Birthday Jubilee set.