Leon's Clinic

Russell and his beard tickle the ivories

Leon's Clinic

Rock legend Leon Russell rolled into Threadgill’s last night for his annual Austin stopover and gave a clinic on how to entertain an audience. Of course, the freaks were out in force, some with beards to rival Russell’s, others more than proud of their stylish, immense beer guts. But for nearly 90 minutes the old-time Okie and close personal friend to Willie hit nearly all the high points in his career, smashed his way through some classic rock standards, and seemed genuinely pleased to be in South Austin.

After opening with a booming medley of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and “Kansas City,” Russell proclaimed, “I don’t do no new songs," then rambled all over American music, covering the likes of B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Lester Flatt. He spoke a bit about hanging with Willie and playing with members of the Grateful Dead at the Armadillo, before ending up in Los Angeles with Gram Parsons, who turned him on to “Wild Horses.” He dove into the song, but with a lilting, almost reggae beat. The Beatles were covered too, with a country take on “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” His solo version of “Song For You” hit a sweet spot and “Delta Lady” was appropriately rollicking. Russell ended with a fervent one-two of “Great Balls of Fire” and “Roll Over Beethoven” that showed at 67 he still knows how to rock and can still leave ‘em wanting more.

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