The animated corpse of Leon Russell sat in state tonight in a small club in Las Vegas.
Voted the top concert act in the world by Billboard Magazine in 1973, Leon evidently dies sometime in the mid-80's and some evil carney (album pun) has been traveling around putting him on display since then.
He did appear remarkably lifelike, but this concert goer was not fooled.
There were several telltale bits of evidence that gave the illusion away:
He played keyboards with the same verve that Brian Wilson has been showing on his recent tours.
He left his Casio set to "synthesizer" the whole evening.
He did fewer Leon songs than a Leon tribute band playing a double-wide trailer bar.
Songs of his he did:
This Song For You (or whatever the name, you know the one)
Back to the Island
He may have done a few others, but not that were recognizable.
Songs he didn't do:
Roll Away the Stone
Shoot Out at the Plantation
Stranger in a Strange land
I only mention the songs he didn't do because there are others that he did, like...
A disco synthesizer version of Wild Horses
A synthesizer wash special of It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall that makes Bryan Ferry's version seem deep and sincere.
A synthesizer violin section version of Georgia
An almost indecipherable cover of Let the Good Times Roll
Horror of horrors, a medley...
Jumpin' Jack Flash done Gloria Gaynor meets Howard Jones style, segueing into Papa Was a Rolling Stone, which bled into an instrumental pastiche of Paint It Black, and ending up with Kansas City.
Throughout, he was maybe mercifully under-mic'd.
I think the only member of the band who showed up for sound check must have been his back up singer and tambourine shaker - she came through loud and clear.
For the encore, he came out and said his first words of the show, "Blah blah blah Las Vegas...something something...this last song was first done by a man who taught me the meaning of the word grace..."
...and he did a lounge rave up version of Great Balls of Fire.
What the Hell?
What the Hell one: Great Balls of Fire as the last tune at a Leon Russell "concert," and...
What the Hell two: Jerry Lee Lewis taught him the meaning of the word grace?
Was Grace one of Jerry Lee's 13 year old cousins or something?
Now, to cut Leon some slack, I'm familiar with his having been in Jerry Lee's band back in the day, and he's known for having once done a good cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash, etc...but he put less into that show than Dr. John did at Hi Fi 2006.
He would have to have kicked it up three notches to reach the level of "phoning it in."
As Stephen would write in his blog if he had had the misfortune of attending this show:
Big Mike said it was worse than the time we got loaded and went to an "Emerson Lake Powell" concert!
Tomorrow night is James Lee Stanley...so there's hope.