I saw him in 1977. My friends and I scored great seats. We were three rows back from the stage in the center. I was a bundle of anticipation. I loved his stuff with Cocker and Delaney and Bonnie. His power as a piano player and rocker was forceful and earthy. When he hit the stage he tore the joint up. I was not disappointed.
All the songs we had hoped to soak in were right in front of us, but then he brought it down, and started to play the love songs. The light hit him, and he was alone on stage, just Leon and his piano. He looked into the audience and started to sing A Song For You.
He’s looking at me. Oh god oh god oh god, he’s looking at me.
No, he’s not looking at me. Why would he be looking at me.
He’s LOOKING at me. OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD……
Stop it now. He can’t be looking at me. He can’t even see me.
oh god oh god oh god he’s looking at me.
NO!!!!! This is just crazy.
Then my roommate leaned over. ” Oh my god, he’s looking at you.”
Maybe he was; maybe he wasn’t. I’ll never know. But I remember the eyes piercing through me; ocean blue like waves. It’s fortunate I was a small town girl unsure of herself, because if I’d had any confidence at all I would have taken up the life of a groupie right then and there.
A groupie for Leon Russell.
Thirty-six years later, I can still recall the excitement of that night. Not just because I MAY (though doubtful) have had a moment with Leon, but because it left a musical footprint on my soul. I think all great concerts do that for a person. Truly remarkable musical performances elevate us to a different plane, and for many of us, are as spiritual as church and the gospel. No higher praise to the being upstairs can be given but to lift our voices in song.
Besides, I’m a sucker for the blue eyes.
From 1971, A Song For You.