An Intimate Evening With A Rock Legend
Despite a number of really good shows happening in Boston on this snowy evening, I chose to see the legendary Leon Russell in the intimate setting that is Johnny D’s.
Walking with the aid of a cane, Leon took the stage to a standing ovation. Graciously acknowledging the love we showed him, he sat at his grand piano and played his heart out for the next nearly two hours.
Despite not appearing as physically strong as he (and we all) used to be, his hands tickled those ivories as if he were 25 years old.
He brought his own piano to this show, which required that the stage be built out to accommodate it. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve seen a grand piano at Johnny D’s; the club had to scramble to rearrange and add tables for all who had dinner reservations and they did a fine job of it.
Leon did not introduce his band, but I believe it consisted of Jackie Wessell on bass, Brandon Holder on drums, and Beau Charron on guitar and pedal steel. They did a terrific job of supporting him, both instrumentally and vocally.
The set list consisted of his own songs as well as those of other musicians with whom he has played throughout his career. I enjoyed how some songs were performed as part of a medley with one song leading into the next. Some of the songs he performed were ‘Rollin In My Sweet Baby’s Arms’, ‘Let The Good Times Roll’, ‘Georgia On My Mind’, and ‘Wild Horses’.
In the middle of the set, the band walked off the stage leaving Leon to perform some of his most beloved songs on his own: ‘Tight Rope’, ‘Delta Lady’, ‘Sweet Emily’, ‘My Eye Is On The Sparrow’, ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’, and ‘A Song For You’. This was probably my favorite part of the show, hearing him play these songs as he might have originally intended.
He bantered with us a bit, telling us a story about B.B. King and letting us know that on the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, he was the Mad Dog! He also pointed out the Starkey sticker on his piano; this publicizes a program by the Starkey hearing aid company where they give hearing aids to needy children around the world. It is obviously something about which he is passionate.
At the end of the show, rather than heading off the stage and then returning for the encore, he told us that he would sit and pretend we were screaming for an encore! A number of artists I have seen over the past couple of years have done that and it makes sense to me, especially when the artist is not as young as he or she used to be. ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ was the song they performed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Leon’s hands are as nimble as always; regardless of whether he was playing a slower jazz tune like ‘Georgia On My Mind’ and a boogie woogie number such as ‘Let The Good Times Roll’, Leon showed us that he still has it going on.
A couple of years ago, an acquaintance disparaged my choices in concert-going saying that I only see the ‘old guys’ while he supports up-and-coming artists. There’s a good reason to see the musicians who have longevity – most are as good as ever and have a lot to show the younger artists about having what it takes to still be in the game after 50 years. Even though I’m not sure how many of the ‘hot’ young musicians who are now popular will still be around in 20 years, much less 50 years, there is good reason to see them as well. It seems to me to be a shame to close one’s mind (presuming one claims to be a music lover) to experiencing it all.
Leon Russell is one of the ‘old guys’ who can still fill a room with his terrific music.
Ticket courtesy of Johnny D’s; all opinions are my own.
Posted on February 15, 2015, in concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged blues, boston, concert review, Johnny D's, Leon Russell, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, rock music. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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