Russell Celebrates 50th Birthday at Home, On Stage
BY Cathy Milam
Apr 3, 1992
1/16/13 at 2:20 AM
Leon Russell's 50th Birthday Bash concert turned out to
be a kind of giant, mass hug.
The musical event had elements of a high school reunion
as well as those of an impromptu jam session.
Gary Busey had sent a videotape showing the film star singing
a special version of "Happy Birthday" to Russell from
aboard the shipboard-set of his upcoming movie. At the end
of the show, friends and family wheeled out a gigantic cake.
It also allowed "the master of space and time" to strut
his stuff in front of a hometown crowd.
Although he walked to his electric piano-synthesizer setup
using a cane, his snow-white hair and beard spilling midway
down the jacket of his white suit, Russell's songs literally
pranced and pirouetted from the amplified keyboards in a
kind of survey of musical styles.
He dished up everything but the kitchen sink.
Russell offered up lush big-band sounds on "Baby Blue,"
a progressive jazz current on "Stranger in a Strange Land"
and a Gershwinesque version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
The show also served as kind of primer on the Tulsa sound.
Russell showed both the deep R&B roots and tendency to growl
exemplified by so many of the city's best musicmakers.
Opening the show was local favorite Bill Davis and the Bill
Davis Band, which provided a kind of homecoming show to
the audience. Tulsans who have become names in Los Angeles
and Nashville joined with Tommy Tripplehorn's guitar wizardry
for one of those once-in-a-lifetime type performances.
As usual, Davis led the way through a kind of survey of
blues masters, offering covers of songs from James Brown
to Freddy King.
But Russell took to the stage alone.
Reportedly, he'll be taking an entire band along with him
on his upcoming "Anything Can Happen" tour. But not in
Tulsa. Here, he shared the spotlight with no one, as if
to demonstrate that it is his writing and arranging and
performing talent that carries the show.
But then, maybe Russell had a point to make.
"I saw my first rock show here," said Russell from the
stage of the Brady Theater. "I guess, now, I'm a show,"
he said. "I guess its come full circle."