Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Leon, Levon and Bethel Woods

Last month I told you I planned on seeing Leon Russell and Levon Helm at Bethel Woods in Sullivan County. The big concert took place Saturday night and it was fantastic.

First, Bethel Woods.

The site of the original Woodstock festival, Bethel Woods is really quite remarkable. The grounds are spectacular. It's obvious why it was chosen for the festival after the town of Woodstock turned away the promoters at the 11th hour.

Although much of the site is now developed -- possibly to the horror of purists who want to remember Max Yasgur's farm as it was -- it is tasteful and classy and perfect, with its amphitheater seating 4,800 and room for another 12,000 on the lawn.

Concessions and restrooms are plentiful, the sound system is first-rate and the Bethel Woods staff has been drilled in customer service. Literally each staffer offered greetings on the way in and "good nights" on the way out. They couldn't have been friendlier. (And a customer satisfaction survey showed up in my email a few days after the show.) There's plenty of parking, but you can see where traffic jams -- if not up to Woodstock '69 standards -- would be a problem on narrow Hurd Road and Route 17B. (The site is about 10 miles from Monticello Raceway.) For this concert, however, attendance was relatively small and it took no time to enter and exit the facility.

You need to find a show you like and visit this place at least once. It really is a jewel in the middle of the Catskills.

As for the concert, I told you that I've been a Leon Russell fan for decades. In fact, I'd seen him play at the Egg in Albany only a couple of months ago. He opened the Bethel Woods show with a great 45-minute set. Leon walks with a cane these days. But he hasn't slowed up behind the keyboard.

Then came a couple of strong performances by a host of musicians who often play with Levon Helm at his Woodstock "Rambles", among them the group Ollabelle, featuring Levon's daughter, Amy, and the wonderful Fiona McBride. Great stuff.

Levon's band took the stage at 9:15 and played until 11:30. The former Band drummer/mandolin player/singer was in top form, as were his accompanying performers, including Larry Campbell, Jimmy Vivino and Little Sammy Davis. Although tickets ("invitations," he calls them) are limited and rather steep, he's right here in our backyard, often performing at his Woodstock home. If you're a fan, you ought to check him out. Google his website for details.
comments powered by Disqus

<< Home