This may be my most tragic ticket stub, as you will see.
I was very excited for this concert. Every year during the spring, Hialeah Race Track in Miami would host Spring Fest, a two-day event with great music. March 2 was the second day of the 1986 festival and featured The Band with Roger McGuinn from The Byrds as the opening act. I was psyched to see both of them.
McGuinn performed an acoustic solo show, which was heavy on Byrds material. Not surprising, we got “Chestnut Mare,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Eight Miles High,” and “Ballad of Easy Rider.” In fact, when he finished, I could not think of a single song I wanted to hear that he didn’t play. His voice was great and the crowd enjoyed it. Now I was ready for The Band.
The Band at this time featured all the original members except for Robbie Robertson. For those of you who need a refresher, this included Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson. What I had heard was that Robertson did not want to rejoin because he felt that The Last Waltz was the appropriate end for The Band (great film of this show by Martin Scorsese, by the way).
Anyway, I thought they sounded amazing! Some of the high points for me were Danko singing “Stage Fright” (possibly my favorite song by The Band) and Richard Manuel singing “The Shape I’m In.” But like McGuinn, they played everything I could have wanted to hear, from “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” to “The Weight.” I walked out of the concert feeling totally inspired and elated.
That feeling did not last too long.
Two days later, Richard Manuel committed suicide in a motel room in Winter Park, Florida. I couldn’t believe it! I had just seen him two days earlier and he was great. I was torn between feeling grateful that I got to see him perform and feeling devastated about the tremendous loss to music.
From that day forth, whenever I hear “The Shape I’m In,” I think of Manuel singing his heart out on stage, and I say to myself: “No, I really did not know the shape you were in.”