BY Melanie Busch
Sep 2, 1991
1/16/13 at 2:21 AM
Leon Russell's performance Sunday night at the River Parks
Amphitheater was a reminder that Tulsa has not forgotten
a favorite son.
When the 5,000 people who filled the amphitheater saw Russell
nearing the stage, they came to their feet, chanting "Leon,
In his trademark cowboy hat and dark sunglasses over white
flowing beard and hair, Russell, cane in hand, took center
stage at his electric piano.
The free concert was a part of the four-day KRMG Great Raft
Race annual celebration.
It was Russell's second Tulsa concert this year. His first
was during Mayfest.
Sunday night's fans got a straight dose of the writer, arranger,
producer, session musician and '70s superstar, without the
pomp and glitz characteristic of other performers.
"You know every time I come to Tulsa, I play the same old
tired songs," Russell told the audience after singing "Sweet
Emily," a song written for a local friend. "I'm trying
to play something different."
But the crowd delighted most in familiar tunes that included
"Over the Rainbow," a bluesy rendition that would have
made Dorothy dance, "Lady Blue" and "Tightrope."
Russell pounded out song after song, wringing out a combination
of Southern blues, rock, country and gospel. Russell's playing
often shook the piano, which sat on a narrow wheeled platform.
When the Will Rogers High School graduate played the rock
classic, "Stranger in a Strange Land," fans came to life
with cigarette lighters, cheers and claps.
He gave the audience a taste of his upcoming album with
Bruce Hornsby, scheduled for release in February.
Russell ended his performance with "Delta Lady," a song
he wrote for Joe Cocker, and "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's
Arms," from his 1973 "Hank Wilson's Back" album.
"I'm from this here Tulsa town," Russell said, after several
minutes of applause between songs. "I started playing piano
in the Methodist church. They kept saying, `Leon, you're
playing too fast. You're playing too fast. But I don't know
. . ."