Leon Russell


 

 

Leon Russell turned 70 in April, has a bit of a paunch and walks with an ebony cane but he has a stevedore's forearms, undoubtedly from years of piano pounding. Russell was at the Neighborhood Theatre, a boite off of North Davidson in Charlotte, where he and his four exuberant bandmates played a respectable assortment of his more rolicking tunes for a couple hundred appreciative fans. The set included fan favorites -- Out in the Woods and Tight Rope from Carney, Delta Lady and a smattering of others from his first solo album Leon Russell, Back to the Island from Will o' the Wisp, and a blistering Rolling Stones medley. In his signature Stetson and sunglasses, Russell sat at an electronic keyboard at stage left where he intoned and howled his classic tunes with no more audible articulation than a latter-day Dylan but it didn't matter. The songs were standards delivered with fresh, driving back beats that kept much of the audience on their feet. Dylan's own A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall was barely recognizable under the throbbing bassline and screeching guitar -- it rocked. The show was Leon's 90-minute dance party, and the Master of Space and Time was in great humor as he shared a rambling tale about George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh that featured a cameo from inventor / visionary Buckminster Fuller and a swipe at a certain Republican presidential candidate. A new album produced by Tommy Lipuma is on its way.

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