Not many people of my generation or younger (makes me feel old…) have heard of Leon Russell. As you may (or may not) remember Bryan and I went to see BB King up in Ithaca a few weeks ago. The same group that brought him to Ithaca brought Leon Russell last night. With the opportunity to hear some good music and listen to a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-er we headed up to Ithaca. This time the show was at the Hanger Theater which is a MUCH smaller (200-300 seats) and more intimate venue. No assigned seating, first come gets the good seats. Not that I really think there were many bad seats. We ended up sitting 30 ft from the stage!
The opening act was a great duo from NYC that we very much enjoyed. When they were done and the stage was reset, Leon was introduced (Ithaca was the first stop on his tour!) and out he came! Not the same scrawny guy with the long hair and crazy top hat from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour but he has the same presence. Now he has long white hair and beard and a cowboy hat. He is traveling with a three-piece band of drums, bass, and guitar (electric, steel, some keyboards). As he launched into the music everyone got sucked into the atmosphere of the venue and was immediately engaged. He played a good mix of music, some new some old, A sides, B sides, covers, originals. Some of the highlights were: Wild Horses, Hummingbird, Georgia On My Mind, Delta Lady, Sweet Emily, The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Young Blood. Words can’t explain the show, it went by so fast. He sounds EXACTLY the same as when he was a young guy. Still has amazing piano skills. Other than having more experience and fancier instruments, you wouldn’t be able to tell he has aged by listening to him.
When the show was over and the crowd was going crazy he said, “Now this is when we go off stage, pretend we are surprised your still cheering, then come back out and play more. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to walk. So pretend we walked off and just came back on” with that they launched into a medley of Great Balls of Fire, Roll Over Beethoven, and a few others for the encore.
An amazing night for sure!