Watch The Band Play “The Weight,” “Up On Cripple Creek” and More in Rare 1970 Concert Footage

In the late-six­ties/ear­ly sev­en­ties, a new genre—pioneered by CSNY, Gram Par­sons, Dylan, the Grate­ful Dead, and a host of others—brought down-home coun­try sounds to main­stream rock audi­ences. So-called “Coun­try Rock,” how­ev­er, most­ly emanat­ed from a Los Ange­les scene that grew far­ther from both coun­try and rock and strayed into easy lis­ten­ing ter­ri­to­ry (or “Yacht-rock”; think late-peri­od Eagles), or jam-band land. But one band nev­er dis­solved into soft rock or aging psy­che­delia: The Band. The four hard-work­ing Cana­di­ans and a man from Arkansas named Lev­on Helm took their coun­try sound more from Helm’s home­town of Turkey Scratch than Lau­rel Canyon. The Band ignored almost every trend in con­tem­po­rary pop music and focused on tight­ly craft­ed, loose­ly-played songs that hewed close to the roots music that seem­ing­ly ran through their veins.

In 1970, when they played the con­cert record­ed above, the five unas­sum­ing mus­ta­chioed men also graced a Time mag­a­zine cov­er under the ban­ner “The New Sound of Coun­try Rock.” With songs like “Up on Crip­ple Creek” and “The Weight,” The Band earned the dis­tinc­tion. Their jour­ney brought them from back­ing band for rock­a­bil­ly singer Ron­nie Hawkins, then Bob Dylan, then final­ly emerg­ing on their own with their non­de­script name in 1968. The name says a lot about The Band’s ethos—there didn’t seem to be an ounce of van­i­ty in what they did, with each mem­ber con­tribut­ing to song­writ­ing and vocal duties. It might be said that the “coun­try” in their sound was pow­ered by drum­mer, man­dolin-play­er, and some­time lead singer Helm (they once briefly broke off from Hawkins and toured and record­ed as Lev­on and the Hawks), but The Band, and Lev­on, were also a top-notch blue-eyed soul singers, as you can hear clear­ly in their mid-six­ties out­put.

In the footage above, from a show at Pittsburgh’s Syr­ia Mosque, watch Helm, Rick Danko, Rob­bie Robert­son, Garth Hud­son, and Richard Manuel work their saloon-room country/soul mag­ic and smooth vocal har­monies on four songs: “Time to Kill,” “The Weight,” “This Wheel’s on Fire,” and “Up on Crip­ple Creek.” And don’t let the term “coun­try rock” put you off. You don’t have to like coun­try music to love what these guys do so well.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Scors­ese Cap­tures Lev­on Helm and The Band Per­form­ing “The Weight” in The Last Waltz

The 1969 Bob Dylan-John­ny Cash Ses­sions: Twelve Rare Record­ings

Bob Dylan and The Grate­ful Dead Rehearse Togeth­er in Sum­mer 1987. Lis­ten to 74 Tracks

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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