He’s been called a vaudevillian, and international man of mystery, but enigmatic crooner Leon Redbone is only a real musician. He has gained a loyal fan base in Ann Arbor and is performing tonight at The Ark.
Touring during the zenith of such artistically challenged acts as Ashley Simpson, Redbone has had the ability to transport his audiences to a time where the art of lip-synching, pre-recorded tracks and pro-tools were all non-existent. His work is a throwback to several periods in history, ranging from the burlesque shows of the pre-WWII era to the dawn of jazz. One would think that doing this would be challenging to either performer or listener, but Redbone?s intoxicating voice and approach prove otherwise.
Redbone’s songs come off as essential recordings stored from each era of history they emulate. His repertoire includes remakes that give their originals a run for their money. “Ain’t Misbehavin” is a great example that finds Redbone singing beside a fiddle – replicating a sound equal ragtime and the turn of the century. His music cuts away the excesses seen in contemporary popular music down to the fundamental elements they should stand by. He relies only on a few instruments – usually his guitar – on each song. And his powerful voice switches between being ominous, welcoming, comical, and overall entertaining. Still, many are unfamiliar with the man and his brand of music, which combines jazz, country, blues and pop.
Like many musicians with actual artistic merit, it would be impossible to find Redbone on many Top 40 radio channels, thus explaining his label as an enigma. However, he has built a core fan base by releasing albums since 1975 and touring. With acoustic guitar and a voice transcendent of a crooner returning from the past, his concerts have grown in popularity. Although, Redbone’s music combines elements from different parts of history, one shouldn’t expect a history lesson at his concerts. It is here that the musician exhibits his quirky sense of style that usually includes dark sunglasses, and two-piece suits. His humorous and witty interactions with audience members contrast the reputation he?s gained as a mystery and explain the popularity of his concerts.
Redbone has been a popular guest at the Ark – even helping to raise money to prevent the Ark from succumbing to economic collapse in January 2004. So it should come as no surprise that his performance tonight is sold out. There aren?t many musicians with the ability to perform well in multiple genres, but Redbone has made a career of doing so, and audience members should expect to see the “vaudevillian” in his usual form tonight.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. the show starts at 8 pm.