Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Once Were Brothers: Robby Robertson and The Band

As the documentary's title suggests, Once Were Brothers: Robby Robertson and The Band focuses on Canadian-American rock group primarily through the lens of guitarist and songwriter Robby Robertson. Filled with terrific music, interviews, and some fun archival footage, the film by director Daniel Roher may not offer much in the way of surprises but does deliver a solid music documentary on how the group came to be.

From their time as a backup band to rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins and later Bob Dylan to The Band's mainstream success, we get the story behind the band's inventive nature embracing a wide variety of influences to create their own sound which continues to influence musicians to this day. The film also covers the more common themes of drugs and the fallout of the group. Included here are interviews from Martin Scorsese (who shot the group's 1978 concert film The Last Waltz), Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, and others.

Robby Robertson is certainly the focus here. Both he and his ex-wife Dominique Robertson provide tales and anecdotes about the group and their ups and downs. One of my favorites from the documentary involves Robertson recounting how "The Weight," one of the group's biggest hits, came to be. We only see the other members of The Band (only one of whom is still living) through their memories and footage, much of it from The Band's experimental sessions in Woodstock. Once Were Brothers: Robby Robertson and The Band definitely has a nostalgic feel, with Robertson looking back at one of the most creative times in his life and a group of friends who changed the musical landscape before drifting apart. The film is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD as well as several streaming services.

No comments: