Sunday, June 17, 2012

Leslie West Live At The Iridium!

I had a chance to watch the first of three shows that Leslie West played last week at The Iridium in New York City last Monday night via the club's live web cast, and it was a stunning return to the headlining stage for the (Don't Call Me Legend) legendary six stringer.

Accompanied by the incredible Rev Jones, armed with his Dean Custom signature series six string bass, and drummer Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult), West brought the magic in spades. In spite of some technical snafus caused by some unexplainable guitar technician related issues (I'm hesitant to blame the tech because I wasn't there, and it's not my gig to point out blame) Leslie gave the crowd a thrilling night of incredible guitar playing, soulful singing, and his usual graciousness and good humor.

The thirteen song set was filled with West classics, and several covers, including the passionate set opener People Get Ready and the Bob Dylan penned Blowin' In The Wind off of the 2011 Mountain album Masters of War (an incredible disc if you've never heard it). The highlight of the set for me was one of the finest renditions I have yet heard of Jack Bruce's Theme From An Imaginary Western originally recorded for Mountain's first album in 1970. Of course, the guitar playing and tone were as exemplary as always, but it was West's moving vocals that captured me on this evening. His vocals seem to get better and better with the passage of time!

West's latest album, Unusual Suspects, was represented by the rocking To The Moon, and the set closing Turn Out The Light. Recorded shortly before the Mountain man was temporarily slowed by the amputation of his right leg in June of last year, the album was a high point of 2011 - West put on the performance of his career, and the production and bass playing by Fabrizio Grossi, along with the powerhouse drumming of Kenny Aronoff made for a fabulous record. Even superstar cameos by Joe Bonamassa, Slash, Zakk Wylde, and Steve Lukather could not deflect the light of West's remarkable musicianship.

Leslie at one point in the show warmly addressed Les Paul Junior from the stage, and laughingly asked that the guitar that West brought to such fame (the Gibson Les Paul Junior) not be compared with his Dean signature model. I've seen Leslie play a lot of guitars over the years, and I am a huge fan of the venerated Les Paul Jr., but I can honestly say that the tones he is getting from his new Deans and his Blackstar amps are definitely the best of his career.

It is a huge thrill to have Leslie West back on the boards, and if you get the chance, don't miss him on this summer's Classic Rock and Blues Tour, featuring West, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, and Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds. This should be one helluva show.

I have to be honest. This show brought tears of joy to my face. Congratulations, Leslie.

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