Local musicians pay tribute to The Band's legendary event

Like many aspiring rockers, as a young man Adam East loved watching “The Last Waltz,” the star-studded concert film documenting The Band’s farewell concert on Nov. 26, 1976.

There was just one performer he thought didn’t quite fit with the roots-rock lineup.

“I always thought Neil Diamond was the worst part of ‘The Last Waltz,’ ” he admits, “even though I grew up with a deep love of his stuff.”

The 46-year-old will make the best of the worst part this weekend when he performs “Dry Your Eyes” — the majestic song Diamond somberly sang with The Band — at The Next Waltz, held Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St.

A tribute to the legendary Thanksgiving-night concert at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, the third-annual Next Waltz will feature 30 Portland musicians, singers and songwriters in the roles of the legends who joined The Band that night: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters and Dr. John, among others.

The Portland event raises money and awareness for the Jeremy Wilson Foundation, which benefits musicians lacking health insurance, and the Oregon Food Bank.

This year’s lineup includes about 20 returning performers and 10 new faces, including Wilson, Jeff Rosenberg, Lewi Longmire, Kris Deelane, Eric Johnson (Fruit Bats) Jenny Conlee (the Decemberists, Black Prairie), Matt Cadenelli (Don of Division Street), David Lipkind (Woodbrain) and trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Paul Brainard leading the Portland Horns. Ural Thomas will take on the Muddy Waters slot this year.

Some musicians, such as Rosenberg, who has a Van Morrison leisure suit tailor-made for the show, go all out to recreate the iconic performances captured in “The Last Waltz” movie released in 1978, while others take a more casual approach.

“Some people kind of play the part and camp it up a bit,” says East, Alberta Rose’s talent buyer, who dons a blue suit and rose-colored shades, a la mid-1970s Neil Diamond.

East insists the shows provide the ideal post-Thanksgiving dessert.

“There’s definitely no better way,” says East, the Alberta Rose’s talent buyer. “Most of the musicians and people I talk to coming away from the event can’t stop smiling for three days afterwards.

“The music is so undeniable.”

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