Continued "Band of Heathens and Leon" story...

Previously, I have been fortunate to catch live performances by such greats as Albert King, B.B. King, James Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins jazz great Charles Mingus and The Who.

The Heathens were right on Saturday and I would put their performance in the ranks of the aforementioned.

These guys are that good.

With great vocal harmony and expert instrumental play – on such instruments as Fender guitar, Gibson Dobro guitar and portable lap steel guitar, the Heathens are not unlike The Band back in the early days, the days of “Music From Big Pink.”

They are about the same age as The Band back then and they excel at performing a wide range of North American music.

The Heathens were scheduled to begin Saturday night’s performance at 9 p.m. as the opening act for Leon’s 10:30 p.m. performance.

But as I walked though Gruene at 8:30 on the way to Gruene Hall, I could hear the band playing loud and clear.
It had been quite a week for the group. Earlier in the week, Austin Mayor Will Wynn had declared Thursday “Band Of Heathens Day.” Then they opened for Leon Sarturday and were, and are, celebrating the release of their “Live From Momo’s” CD.

Keep an eye on these guys, and give your ears a treat by getting their new CD.

Back in 1993 I had reviewed for a South Florida newspaper a performance by Leon Russell at the old Musician’s Exchange in Fort Lauderdale.

Saturday’s performance was reminiscent of that gig at times, but had more of a C&W feel, which fit right in at the Gruene venue.

I was hoping to hear “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and was happy to hear it as the second tune of the set.

As I wrote back in 1993, Leon shows that he is more than a past-his-prime rock star – there are plenty of them around.

Leon’s keyboard virtuosity, and his interest in all kinds of music, from rock ‘n’ roll, to gospel to C&W and more, keeps him fresh.

Leon and friends performed songs by Dylan, including “A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall,” the Rolling Stones, including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and many of Leon’s own exceptional compositions.

As in the Fort Lauderdale performance, before he performed his classic “A Song For You,” band members left him alone on stage – it was just Leon, his unique voice, and his keyboard.

After the show I spoke with a native Texan who lives in Colorado. When Leon began “A Song For You,” the concert-goer called his wife in Colorado on his cellular phone and she joined him in listening to these timeless words:
I’ve been so many places in my life and time,
I’ve sung a lot of songs, I’ve made some bad rhyme, I’ve acted out my life in stages, with ten thousand people watching,
But we’re alone now, and I’m singing this song for you.

I love you in a place where there’s no space or time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over,
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song for you.

Leon, who will be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee on Thursday, ended the concert with a tribute to an early musical influence – “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis – by performing “Great Balls Of Fire.”
With Babbitt waving to the audience to join in on the refrain, “Great Balls Of Fire,” Leon and friends had the place rocking one more time.

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