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I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times: Muscle Shoals Documentary, 10/18/13 , Leon Russell @ Saban Theater, 10/19/13, Brian Wilson & Jeff Beck @ The Greek, 10/20/13

“Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

I guess I just wasn’t made for these times”

~”I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”, The Beach Boys

Muscle Shoals

Nestled inside the historic Laemmle’s Monica Fourplex in sunny Santa Monica, it served as a contrasting backdrop to the world of Muscle Shoals we were about to be brought into. As someone who’s gotten off on standing in spaces where great creative endeavors have occurred…from Capitol Studios to Sun Studios to The Whisky-A-Go-Go to Ex-Helvete, I was excited to see the newly released documentary on the Muscle Shoals sound. While it’s not a perfect film- I’m not sure why Bono and Alicia Keys were included- it put a face and a back story to a sound that is very much a part of America’s music history. The documentary reinforced the notions of hard work and determination as foundations to success in the music industry of yesteryear, how much the environment the music was created in had an effect on the sound- another tenet that seems to be gone nowadays, and how some of the most well known sounds have been created by men who don’t look like what you thought they’d look like. The Swampers- they look like my dad!

Leon Russell recorded The Shelter People there…

Leon Russell @ Saban Theater

IMG_5598The classic-feeling Saban Theater was the perfect setting for this show. After getting my father’s vinyl collection, I’ve been listening to Leon Russell’s Will O’ The Wisp a lot. With my reignited interest in The Master of Space and Time, a belly full of sushi, and my boyfriend in a top hat in tow, it was bound to be a good night. After an awful opening act, Leon Russell and band proceeded to blow our minds.

Russell proves to be another from the golden era of rock ‘n’ roll who was preserved by drugs; he looks and sounds the same as he did in the ’70s. Busting through several boogie woogie numbers with the band, masters of percussion, bass, and slide guitar; we were left wishing we weren’t confined to seats, surely the youngest there not dragged in by their parents.

“My wife told me I need to talk more…” Russell said, and the introductions he gave to some of the songs made the night feel like “Story Time with Leon Russell”. From Gram Parsons gifting him a top hat that turned out to be Al Jolson’s, to originally coming to LA to work in advertising, to talking about playing in bars since he was 14 because Oklahoma had no liquor laws, to explaining why he doesn’t leave the stage for the encore, he entertained with more than the songs.

My favorite part of the set was when it was just him and the piano: “Sweet Emily”, “His Eye Is On the Sparrow”, straight into “A Song For You”, causing the audience to gasp. Or maybe my favorite part was the end, when everyone was on their feet dancing to “Great Balls of Fire” and “Roll Over Beethoven”. Really, the whole show was fantastic.

Leon Russell recently did an album with Elton John called The Union…Brian Wilson provided some vocal harmonies for it.

Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck @ The Greek Theater

IMG_5605When I was a kid, the music of my parents that I was most drawn to were the male vocal harmonies…The Oak Ridge Boys…The Statler Brothers…and mostly, The Beach Boys. Pet Sounds is one of my stranded on a deserted island picks. My obsession with those blonde-haired surfer dudes from California would lay the groundwork for my obsession with psychedelic music and perhaps the land that I would one day call my home. I had seen Brian Wilson once before, in 2006, at a Bridge School Benefit as a new California resident. It was magical.

We walked in as the first song began, “California Girls”, and made our way to a seat a few rows from the stage. There were nearly a dozen musicians onstage to recreate the classic Beach Boys’ sounds, including three from original Beach Boys’ lineups. If you were there and heard and audible “ahhh” every time a song from Pet Sounds began, that was me. I didn’t even care how, sitting a mere few yards away from Brian Wilson’s face, clearly revealed that he should not really be performing any more…those songs are still filled with childhood magic for me. Once again surrounded by people generations older than us, it was cool to see these adults transported back into teenagers, losing their minds and dancing.

IMG_5618As the night turned chillier, Jeff Beck and band took the stage. Beck ran right by me to accept one of his awards at the GRAMMY Pre-Tel a couple years ago, so it was way past time for me to see him play. What would ensue was like watching a scientist with a guitar, pushing it to its limits, flanked by a female violinist that made me hate that I gave the instrument up. If I had known I could play with rock bands I would have worked harder!!! A lot of the great guitarists I have seen in my day have a violent relationship with their instrument; Beck demonstrated much more of an intimate one. When everyone stood to clap for him at the end, he redirected the applause to his instrument. Highlights for me were “Little Wing” and “A Day In the Life”…two of my all time favorite songs from my childhood.

The finale had every musician from both bands onstage, starting with “Our Prayer”, the instrumental opener to The Smile Sessions, and ending with “Surfin’ USA” and “Fun Fun Fun”. Jeff Beck had the last laugh, as, when leaving the stage, he took the baby powder he kept near him while playing and poured it in his hand and blew it at the crowd, and then put it on his armpit.

It was a great weekend looking back in time, learning more about the history of the music I love. But at the same time, it makes me think that I missed it all, that I just wasn’t made for these times.

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