Saturday, February 2, 2008

Leon Russell Review

FEBRUARY 2, 2008

I knew I would find the time to wear these funky, far-out Doc Matrens. Lacing up my zebra boots, donning patchouli in honor of hippier days, I beat it down the highway, trippin' on a local rock n' roll station warming up for Tightrope, A Song For You, Lady Blue, Delta Lady, This Masquerade and more.

Third row friend and I were poised to be entertained and to voyeur the mysterious flow of passion of a legendary, talented performer. Enter Leon, eye-catching and dapper as ever with cascading white hair and beard resting on a white suit. Hat in place, shades on, he was here. After the first song I determined that Leon might as well have been a cardboard cutout. Okay, he's aged. Haven't we all. A quick scope of the rows behind me proved that. Gray everywhere. I needed a little expression of passion, but maybe that wasn't Leon's style. Gratefully, the other musicians were animated.

The drummer, oldster that he was, was expertly flailing away, the fire of youth still flowing. He kept an ambitious beat.

Lead guitar guy's long and lean fingers deftly pinpointed quick melodies and expansions of musical thought. Dark, worn jeans stuck to his long skinny legs, almost revealing the music pumping through his veins.

The bass guitar, now he was fun to watch. Every part of his body writhed in beautiful visual concert when he laid his hands on his guitar. I fell hard for his passion.

The keyboard (besides Leon's) was adored by a justifiably self-appreciating, long-hair who, I think, was blind. He never looked at the keyboard....but he did look inward. His facial expressions told a story of pure pleasure at what he was able to do, and his closed-lip, broad smile seemed to revel in acknowledgment. His fingers moved freely like a bird flitting, lifting and landing easily, the mechanics well-ingrained. This guy knew his instrument. He felt it. And he let us know that.

Oh, haven't I mentioned the sound yet??

I was so engrossed in the visual performance because I was aurally overwhelmed. It was too loud to hear. My discrimination picked through the murky, messy collage to find Leon. I could only locate him with ears held tightly shut. And then I felt like Randy on American Idol: "Dude, you're really pitchy, man." Happily, there were sweet moments in his soulful ballads when my searching heart was thrown a life-raft and I connected with the sound I remembered.

Then something like a prayer was answered. Leon moved. He lifted his dark glasses and looked at us. Sensitive and bright, his eyes lit up a kind face.....and beat a path to my heart. I like seeing the man behind the music. I need the human connection for a little meaning.

With the connection to The Man made, I was as content as I could be considering I was having to survive the highest decibel level from each instrument on stage. Sound check anyone? Sooooooooound cheeeeeeeeck!!!! I took a quick glance at my friend to see how she was faring. Pre-concert, her smile filled her face, rosy with the expectancy of a musical treat. Now she looked bland with facial features being drawn, almost disappearing into a silent scream of "Get me outta here!" I turned to check out the rest of the audience behind us. Gray heads were numbly bobbing.

The noise friend was first up and first out while me and my zebra boots followed, albeit wobbly from the quiet after-shock. It was a night to remember.

Grateful acknowledgment to Jackie Wessel (bass guitar/vocals), Chris Simmons (guitarist/vocals), Brian Lee (keyboards/vocal), and Grant Whitman (drums) who, in a better-suited venue for a musical concert, would most assuredly have been the treat of a lifetime. Nothing takes away from the talent and heart of the creative genius of Leon Russell. Love your songs, Leon. You are a friend of mine.

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