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Last Night: Leon Russell at the Granada Theater

Leon Russell
Granada Theater
August 23, 2009

Better than: Hearing a medley of classic Leon Russell songs sung in an Asian karaoke bar, but not much better...

During the 1960s and '70s, Leon Russell was the consummate sidekick and bandleader--and he was even solo star in his own right.

Hanging with the Stones, George Harrison, leading Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, palling around with Willie Nelson--he was everywhere. In short, he was one of the most recognizable faces and voices in the music world, and wrote songs that have entered into the canon of American music. Songs such as "A Song For You," "Hummingbird," and "Masquerade" were intimate expressions of emotion.

And you can only imagine the stories he could tell about those wild times.

Unfortunately, the Leon Russell that covered his many hits at the Granada last night was a shadow of that man.

Russell wove his intimate songs into a series of bombastic medleys appropriate for a cruise ship or casino band.

There wasn't a word spoken between the "songs," either.

Sure, he is, as he said, "an old man now," and a bit infirm of body. But his voice is still strong and piano playing as fluid as ever.

Unfortunately, the sold-out audience was left to wonder what would cause him to walk--no, run--in such a perfunctory fashion through songs that meant a lot to the fans that paid to see him.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I guess these kind of performances really aren't that unusual for music legends that have not truly been creative for decades. But they are always unsatisfying, sad affairs to listen to.

Random Note: Another disappointment of the evening was how the sound mix that had been crystal clear for the excellent set by opening, shuffling blues artist Seth Walker was transformed into such a muddy din for Russell

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