Saad Shallal - Mitch Ryder interview and concert review
Leon Russell and Mitch Ryder
Last Friday (8/5) at The Chevy Rockin’ GM Riverfront concert series Stage, two legendary performers blew away a crowd of over 8,000 Detroiters gathered around the stage and many in nearby boats along the river front, as no other classic rockers could have. The Evening started with a TRUE DETROIT NATIVE (born in Hamtramck on Feb 26, 1945) – MITCH RYDER (birth name – William S Levise Jr).
Mitch Ryder started singing at an early age and pursued music because he wanted to bring joy to the people. He believes music is a very “Honorable Profession” when it brings happiness to those listening. He believes that he is blessed because there is “POWER” in music especially if it uplifts the audience and makes them walk away feeling good after every show. He formed many bands after turning down a job as an Animator for “Walt Disney” in California while he was in High school (he was very good in art according to his art teachers). He loves playing festivals with a large audience especially seeing young kids dancing to his music along with their parents AND grandparents. He also loves doing small intimate clubs around the tri-county area where he still resides. He loves living close to his children and because Detroit fans are the BEST and are “HONEST” unlike those in other parts of the world. He also has a lovely wife, Megan, who helped bring back “PEACE” to his life. She makes sure that he stays on top of his game – A TRUE GREAT, LOVELY WOMAN!
With a massive catalogue of GREAT hits that have been maintained on a regular rotation playlist of any radio station, he is STILL NOT IN THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME –A BIG SHAME ON THEM!!!
Although, he claims it has “NO MEANING” to him because, it’s not the fans that can vote but, misguided media personalities. The same people who run record companies that have kept his career from prospering. But, he was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2005. Even though he continues to release many records outside the US, he has trouble releasing music in his OWN COUNTRY due to bad relationship with record Executives! But, he does have a LIVE CD, “Live in America – 2008” which he currently sells at his concerts (more information at www.mitchryder.de).
Tonight is a very special night for Mitch because, he is opening for a “legend” that he has admired for over 40 years (although he has never played with), LEON RUSSELL. Because, back in 1970, Leon approached Mitch to produce his album that never materialized. Although, another GREAT artist John Mellencamp did produce Mitch’s album - “Never Kick a Sleeping Dog“(1983) that brought Mitch back to American charts after 20 years.
At 7:30 PM, Mr. Ryder along with his Detroit Wheels (consisting of another Detroit legend - Paul Kramer on Lead guitar, bassist Sean Bondereff, drummer Jerome Day, guitarist Chris Brantly and keyboardist Patrick Harwood) took the stage and got the crowd on their feet with the first notes of “Little Latin Lupe Lu” (1966). He only surrounds himself with the “BEST” musicians to back him up then rolled into “Sock it to me” followed by a rousing rendition of “Rock & Roll” (Lou Reed cover) that had the crowd singing along. The band just ripped it up with their fine powerful instrumentation!
Next up was “Jenny Take a Ride” (first hit in 1965) that introduced Mitch’s music to the world which had the band replace the lyrics of “CC Ryder” with “MITCH RYDER” (very cute!). This was followed by “When You Were Mine” (from “Never Kick a Sleeping Dog”). The vocals were very emotional and crisp that made him sound like he was 18 years old again.
“The Promise” was introduced as a NEW song from his upcoming CD that will be released around December 2011 (Produced by Detroit’s own, Don Was) to also coincide with Mitch’s “NEW” autobiography. He claims everything in the book “IS THE TRUTH” because he had “legal Lawyers” look it over although, he had to take out about 55 pages due to legalities (too bad we can never read what others wanted left out). Next, “Bow Wow Wow Wow” was first rehearsed with the crowd (the chorus line repeated many times to make sure the crowd sang it correctly) before it actually started because, “Mitch never jumps into the water before testing it”. It featured some nice Keyboards from Patrick Harwood and guitar from Chris Brantly that had the crowd singing and clapping.
“C’est La Vie” had that French sound to it supplied by keyboardist Patrick Harwood.
“Shake a Tail Feather” had the slim 66 year old (NOT LOOKING HIS AGE) Mitch, getting the crowd dancing again. This was followed by “Gimme Shelter” (Rolling Stones cover) an anthem song that was written for a generation that needed a message for “ALL THEIR ANGST” (according to Mitch Ryder)!!! It started with Very nice keyboards and guitarist Paul Kramer soaring guitar intro. The song received a standing ovation after a very emotional singing from Mitch emphasizing the lyrics.
“Wind Cries Mary” (Hendrix cover) was done with some very soulful singing even though Mitch messed a few lyrics that he apologized for at the end. ONLY a true performer would apologize for his mistakes during a performance (unheard of with today’s performers).
Next, “Devil with a Blue Dress On” (reached to #4 in 1966) had the crowd (especially those seated in the VIP area) on their feet again. The song continued into “Good Golly Miss Molly” which had some very nice dueling guitars from Paul and Chris and the rhythm section of bassist Sean Bondereff and drummer Jerome Day kept the song solid to end the 50 minute set. But that was not enough for the crowd as they made sure Mitch and the band return for an Encore.
Mitch came out and thanked the crowd and asked “Why are Women in Michigan more beautiful than the rest of the world”? He replied because, “It Must Be In Her Genes” (another NEW song that can be found on his latest CD - “Live in America – 2008”). The band played their respected instruments to the highest degree as Mitch’s vocals shook the stage as he screamed and howled better than he has in years. His voice seems to get stronger as he ages “GRACEFULLY” and his tambourine playing isn’t shabby either. That ended his hour set as he was very graciously thanking the crowd. Overall, it was a MONSTER set! As more People started to gather all over the street and no place to stand, he was rushed off the stage to meet and greet his many fans patiently waiting for him to arrive behind the sound booth. There, he would sign everything his fans wanted (excluding a court summons – he jokingly said) and personally autograph his latest CD “Live in America – 2008”! This was one of the BEST shows that Mitch has performed in front of his “HOMETOWN” crowds, so PLEASE go out and support him!!! He puts on a GREAT show and does a wonderful job introducing songs, mentioning the band member’s names numerous times AND most of all is very “Humorous” in telling stories about each song – JUST A WONDERFUL SHOW!!!
Next up, at 9:00PM, Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges on 4/2/1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma) who was finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year on Monday, March 14, 2011, along with his fine band consisting of Guitarist Chris Simmons, Bassist Jackie Wessel, Drummer Brandon Holder and the newest member Peddle Steel Guitarist/Keyboardist Beau Charron came on stage to a rousing applaud.
They started the set with “Delta Lady” (first commercial success for Leon as a songwriter came when Joe Cocker recorded this song for his 1969 album, Joe Cocker). Leon seated at his keyboards with his long white hair and white beard (very distinguished looking) wearing his famous white cowboy hat mesmerized the crowd with his playing. He continued on with “Stranger in a Strange land” that featured some nice peddle steel guitar from Beau and soaring guitar from Chris.
They slowed it down a little for a nice bluesy rendition of “Sweet Little Angel” by B.B. King which had a nice guitar dueling between Chris and Beau followed by “Lady Blue”. The song hit No. 14 on the charts in 1975 and for which he wrote for his daughter.
Leon finally greeted the audience with his southern accent by saying “HOW YA’LL DOIN”??? (Which he does very well for a man with little words). As the crowd roared back acknowledging his presence, Leon mentioned that he started playing nightclubs at the age of 14 because Oklahoma was a dry state and that he could play those establishments because they did not serve alcohol. He introduced the next song as a 1950’s B-side song by “Ivory Joe Hunter” (he said he wished he had a “COOL” name like that) and featured some nice guitar from Chris. The next song, “Sing a Lullabye” was sung by bassist Jackie and they followed it with “Anyway You Want Me” and “Back to the Island” which featured some more nice guitar from Chris.
The band continued with some nice keyboard playing from Leon on “Wild Horses” (Rolling Stones cover) and peddle steel guitar from Beau that received a nice applause. Leon started to tell the story about how he moved to LA to do advertising, met a lot of people but finally went to Greenwich Village in New York to work with Blue Rock records where he met Bob Dylan to record the next song “Hard Rain”. This was followed by George Harrison “Humming Bird” that segued into The Beatles “I've Just Seen A Face" that featured Beau playing the mandolin that had the crowd roar. They continued with a cover “Georgia on My Mind” that received a rousing ovation. “Tightrope” (which had the highest chart position of #11) was followed by “Prince of Peace” that featured some nice lead guitar from Beau.
“Out in the Woods” featured some nice lead vocals from Chris that had the crowd giving him a standing ovation. He followed that with “Walkin’ Blues” which he also sang and played a mean slide guitar. The band left the stage when Leon started to play “A Song For You” from his 1970 eponymous solo album Leon Russell. This has become one of his best-known songs, with cover versions released by more than 40 different artists.
Then, the band returned to play a medley of The Rolling Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”/ The Temptations "Papa Was a Rolling Stone”/ and a brief instrumental rendition of The Rolling Stones “Paint It Black” (AMAZING harmonized guitar work from Chris) that segued into “Kansas City Woman” to end the 70 minute set.
As Leon, still seated at the keyboards and the crowd ROARING with approval, he told them that he is too old (as he uses a Cain to walk) to walk off and return – “JUST PRETEND THAT WE LEFT” he told the audience which received an even louder roar!!!
The Encore was started after Leon “URGED” the crowd to sing along to a couple of “oldies”. Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire” and a nice rendition of the popular “Roll Over Beethoven” as Chris did his Chuck Berry “Duck Walk” impression.
This ended the 80 minutes set of pure Gospel/Blues/Soul/Rockin music that can only be done by a master of his profession – MR. LEON RUSSELL while guitarist Chris Simmons graciously tossing his personalized guitar picks to the audience (very nice touch) and the other members waving to the crowd. The night ended as the members of Leon’s group headed back to the merch booth to meet the fans.
This was ONE incredible night of pure, energetic rock music with TWO GREAT LEGENDS!!!
Don’t forget to go see these artists (they might be getting older) more often because they still have it after 40 years of performing (still sound as fresh AND strong as when they started) AND SUPPORT THEIR MUSIC.
JUST AN INCREDIBLE EVENING – THANK YOU, AND MAY GOD BLESS LEON & MITCH!!!