Leon Russel and Dave Mason September 30, 2006
Smokin’ Oldies at Cerritos: Leon Russell and Dave Mason
By Glen Creason
They say that if you can remember the 60’s you didn’t live through them. But the old gray cells were stirred and so were the pulse rates in an outstanding display of rock music by two old pals from back in the psychedelic day at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. Both Leon Russell and Dave Mason demonstrated tight, disciplined and highly talented ensembles who provided musical muscle and a sturdy platform for the lead guys considerable skills and repertoire. In equal halves of this show, the bands had definitely eaten their wheaties.
You could have flip-flopped the acts since each garnered standing O’s but Leon Russell opened the show at a sprint that did not subside until he slowed it to a canter in “Lady Blue” from the full out giddy up of “Delta Lady,” “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Nighttime is the Right Time.” The group presented a high-octane, ragged but right sound highlighted by Russell’s barrelhouse piano with roadhouse cayenne sprinkled in and lead guitarist “Curly” Speegle’s face-melting solos spicing an already tasty wall of sound. Russell doesn’t do much talking and the pace was exhilarating, continuing through “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Any Way You Want It,” and the twin glories of “Wild Horses” and “It’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall” that paid tribute to two of Russell’s most distinguished pop partners.
Not everything boogied at full-tilt and some classic ballads offered softer moments including “Georgia On My Mind,” and the truly classic “Song for You” that strangely works perfectly with Leon’s nasal Oklahoma drawl. If he had closed the show the crowd would have demanded encores but instead the old-timer politely withdrew amidst standing adulation from the packed crowd.
Dave Mason had a hard act to follow but he offered no let-up in quality or energy levels. I would submit that Mason has always possessed one of the sweetest guitar tones in pop history and on this night he was astounding from start to finish. Father time has taken his toll on all of us who heard Mason as a teen with the band Traffic but on this night he sounded as great as ever, only now he plays those tasty licks while wearing reading glasses. The Mason band was also top drawer, especially organist Bill Mason who recreated the lush, beautiful sound of Dave’s all-time great album “Alone Together” with songs “World In Changes,” “Only You Know and I Know,” and “Shouldn’t of Took More Than You Gave.” Dave Mason’s more mature status helped to flesh out what were classic solo passages and such was the case on “Look At You, Look at Me” with utterly sensational guitar playing by any standards. Mason gave the faithful a set-full, traveling across his career including “We Just Disagree,” a journey in the time machine to “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” a new one called “Ain’t Your Legs Tired Honey (because you’ve been running through my mind)?” and a sizzling “All Along the Watchtower.” This time, the happy audience kept up the hoo-rahs until Mason came back for encores that left the house “Feelin’ Alright.”