It wasn't a Leon Redbone concert last night, it was "An Evening with Leon Redbone," thus transcending strictly music sentiments.--- With old-man talk—sometimes gruff gibberish—quirky anecdotes about early 20th century music scene and unique stage decor—just an antique lamp, clock and what looked like a block mast pulley (but, I'm no sailor)—the sum was greater than the parts. Quirky blues/jazz virtuoso Redbone was stunning, if not endearing. Redbone's beguiling musical style transfixes, but slowly—you warm up to it. As I walked in and took a spot up front, Redbone was about halfway through his set. His picking seemed haphazard, the rantings nonsense. But, that's the beauty of live music—you don't get clean melodies from the 27th take; you get, as they say, what you get. And, Redbone is easily forgiven for his old fingers' misgivings because of his humility and grandfatherly charm. He often said something like, "Let's see if we can mess up another one." "We" consisted of Redbone and a pianist, who seemed to humor Redbone when prompted as if he just wanted to play and have the old man stop talking. "I haven't been right in awhile. Just don't grow up in the swamps of Louisiana," Redbone said inbetween ditties with his unusually deep voice.
I caught a couple Gene Austin tunes to start out, including "My Blue Heaven." Redbone had no problem "messing up" the legend's classics of another era. Redbone sang the deceased musicians praises, saying there's never been anyone better and probably never will be. It was highly plausible that Redbone's banter lasted as long as his music selection and only incrementally longer than tuning his old Gibson six-string (he blamed it on the altitude, another recurring joke).
Another highlight was Redbone's whistling skills. In an age of expensive gadgets and electronic equipment, it's lovely to see a performer pucker up for a bird song. As the set meandered along, the choppy guitar parts seem to clean up and, through repetition, his jokes become increasingly funnier. The set ended with a couple of requests, as Redbone bantered with the crowd. To their delight, he played "Sheik of Araby" from Double Time and "Sweet Maria" from On the Track—an all-time classic blues album.