On Wednesday night, the Don Henley tour rolled into to the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater to a sold-out house! The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and recent Kennedy Center Honoree brought a stellar show to the venue beginning with the opening act – JD and the Straight Shot.
An Americana four member band along with touring musicians that have played with a Who’s who of music including Keith Urban, Beyonce, David Bowie, Darius Rucker, Joe Walsh and really just too many more to name. Their 9-song set started off with “Glide” from their album “Ballyhoo”. A great cover of Spirit’s “Nature’s Way” brings a blast from the past. The acoustic “Better Find a Church” has haunting melodies between the voices of singers Jim Dolan and Erin Slaver. Check the video out on YouTube and you will see what I mean. Violinist and vocalist Erin Slaver brings both a smooth violin and fast fiddle to the mix. Standing bass, percussion and keys round it out. The musicianship here is top notch! Dolan is a bit of the ringmaster with his top hat, fun antics and chat. His vocals are those of a singer-songwriter with an edge not perfect but memorable. Having a near full house to open is always a great way to start and the audience was thoroughly enjoying this band!
Don Henley will always been known as an Eagle. He is one-half of the songwriting team of Henley and Frey, who some have called the American version of Lennon-McCartney. Don also had a great solo run in the 80’s and 90’s. One of our greatest musicians, he has a large catalog of material to concoct a set list including his 2015 album Cass Country.
The show opened with old radios hanging from the ceiling, lighting up and playing various musical genres and artists. From Elvis to the Beatles, it was a trip down memory lane to the curtain rising to Henley and band singing the Eagles hit “Seven Bridges Road” in amazing acapella harmony. Then “Dirty Laundry” a timeless rocker that is as relevant today as it was when it was #3 in 1982. “Witchy Woman” and “One of These Nights” takes us back to the days of radio and the beginning of the Eagles rise to fame. Don brought three backround singers for this tour and they each got a chance to shine on duets from the Cass Country album that features duets with Dolly Parton, Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood.
Henley said “I am doing this one for me” and played “Shangri-La” a “B” side from the “End of Innocence” album. “Heart of the Matter” and the album’s title song had the audience in the palm of Henley’s hand. The haunting Eagles “The Last Resort” a song no doubt close to Henley’s heart about man and the environment. “It Don’t Matter to the Sun” a Garth Brooks cover by alter-ego Chris Gaines was a beautiful acoustic arrangement. Another surprise, Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that Don said he neither wrote nor recorded. He just wanted to have a good time sing-along. Then just to add to the pure 80’s mode we were in he concluded with “Boys of Summer” which had everyone on their feet.
The encore was incredible and incredibly emotional. “Life in the Fast Lane” & “Hotel California” had Don not on drums but as front man. Henley doesn’t change what ain’t broke. His versions of the Eagles classics are spot on to the album and radio versions we all know and love. His vocals are as clear and good as ever. He concluded with his two favorite songs he wrote with the late Glenn Frey and honored him well with “Wasted Time” and “Desperado” to which the audience sang along with in tribute to Glenn. There are no words to even describe the feeling that was in the room.
Thank you Don Henley for writing some of the best music of our time!
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock The Lens Photography