Thanks to a series of unfortunate events and cruel happenstance, I was convinced I would never ever get to see the legendary Leon Russell in the bearded flesh. Even in the days and weeks leading up to his show at The State, I was convinced some freaky fluke would keep me away from the show. Thankfully, however, the third-ish time (or maybe the fourth) was the charm. And in the Falls Church venue, I found myself a part of a lusty, appreciative, good-time crowd, eating up every note that Russell and his band laid down. The wait, though long, was worth it.
MINI RECAP: Leon Russell = Snow White Hot! Overall Score: B+
A fondness for Leon Russell (among other glorious music of the 60s and 70s) is one thing I can attribute to a former paramour of mine, and for that I'll be forever thankful. Russell's website, modest though it isn't, says it best: "Leon Russell is a legend and perhaps the most accomplished and versatile musician in the history of rock'n'roll." Truth. Oh, and let's not forget that beard. I'd say that's legendary in its own right. The crowd at The State was impatient, hootin' and hollerin' and chanting "Leon, Leon" in attempts to lure their favorite heavily-whiskered gentleman to the stage. It eventually worked, and the good times started as soon as Leon took his spot behind his keyboard.
Along with his four-man backing band, including the rather noteworthy guitarist Chris Simmons (who rocked a mean guitar and an even meaner retro-styled suit of either velour or corduroy), Russell showed his adoring public one heck of a time, starting with a combo pairing of crucial covers, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Papa Was A Rolling Stone". Both were tight and rambunctious, adding Russell's own soulful, twangy Oklahoma spin to the Stones and Motown classics. I was pretty much standing there like an awe-struck bump on a log, so impressed was I by the golden glory that was emanating from the stage. And that voice...that silken, bell-loud, honeyed rumble of a voice that is Leon Russell's alone. The band's take on "Wild Horses", sped up, jaunty, but still bursting at the heartstrings with emotion was nothing short of amazing.
"How y'all doin," Russell asked at one point, taking a breather from getting the crowd all riled up and dancing, and was greeted with the reply from somewhere deep in the audience of "Elton doesn't deserve you!" Truth.
It took a whole lot longer than I ever thought, but seeing Leon Russell was a treat. He's still on tour, so I recommend getting out there to see him wherever you can. He truly is a legend. Go pay homage.
mp3: This Masquerade (Leon Russell from Carney) (song courtesy the most excellent Noise Narcs)