You only turn 70 once so why not have a big birthday party/concert in your home state – that’s exactly what Don Henley did Saturday night in Dallas at The American Airlines Center. The place was packed from the front row on the floor to the last row in the upper balcony sections. The open, bare stage was full of many instruments and enough microphones for a few choirs to use, while the only added props were thirty-seven old radios hanging from the rafters. With the promise of a few special guests and the prospect of Don’s enormous musical catalog to choose from, we were super excited to be there for this special evening of music.
When the lights finally dimmed, spotlights took turns on the hanging radios as they played various old songs (belted out by the audience as soon as they recognized them) and historical quotes from famous figures of our past. As the band lit into “Big D” by Chet Atkins – the three backup singers took the spotlight and ran with it. When Don finally appeared onstage, cool white lights lit up the microphones as everyone launched into a beautiful, near-acapella version of “Seven Bridges Road” by Steve Young. It was a great song to get all of their pipes warmed up and the audience was on board with the effort.
How does one build a set list when you have over forty years of material from which to choose? When you’re Don Henley, I guess you pick the songs you want to play and hope the crowd enjoys them. Knowing that there would be songs from his time with The Eagles and from his solo albums, I could only guess what hits he would play. The first was “Dirty Laundry” from 1982’s I Can’t Stand Still. All I could think about throughout this one was how good he looked and how great he sounded for being seventy years old.
While introducing “Sunset Grill” to the audience, he told a sweet story of how the song came about during the mid-80’s – he frequented a diner in California that was ran by an immigrant couple that loved to use Velvetta on their burgers (Texans go bat-shit crazy over that stuff) and one could tell that they really had a positive effect on him at that time of his life. The song itself was presented with an almost laid-back, mellow vibe that floated through the concert hall with ease. Don’s most recent album ( 2015’s Cass County) provided the next song “That Old Flame” – “a cautionary tale about the internet” that he did as a duet on the album with Martina McBride. While she was not in attendance tonight, backup singer Lily Elise filled in nicely and it was superb. He also played “When I Stop Dreaming” from the new album and it was superb.
While it was great to hear his newer stuff, I suspect most were there because they grew up listening to The Eagles & wanted to relive that period of time in their lives. Don didn’t disappoint: he still hit all of the high notes in 1972’s “Witchy Woman”, blazed through “One of These Nights” and welcomed Timothy B. Schmit onstage to play bass & sing “I Can’t Tell You Why”while sitting in on drums. Hitting a few highlights from his solo career was also a necessity and the audience was not disappointed with “The End of the Innocence”, a beautiful duet with Patty Smyth: “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”, “The Boys of Summer” and the highlight of my night – “Leather and Lace” with Stevie Nicks. Her entrance onto the stage elicited the biggest roar of the night so far and their time together on stage with very special. She sounded terrific throughout and relayed her personal story of how the song came to be (Don had no memory of that at all).
As the band emerged from a short break, Don brought out Schmit and Joe Walsh this time to thunderous applause as they ripped into “Rocky Mountain Way”, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Hotel California” (with Don on the drums again). This threesome of songs to the experience from a ten to a twenty as the audience sang along at the top of their lungs. That in of itself was plenty, but Don had no desire to slow this train down so they came back out for another encore and treated the fans to “Wasted Time” and “Desperado” (which they dedicated to Glenn Frey), “All She Wants to Do is Dance” and finally The Beatles “Birthday” with all four of the special guests joining Don onstage as white balloons rained down from the rafters. A few other highlights were the rarely played Eagles tune “The Last Resort” and a perfect cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that had the audience out of their chairs singing and dancing.
At nearly three hours long, this concert was one for the ages – Don Henley looked just as comfortable onstage as he did twenty years ago and the audience was enjoying every minute of it. Having multiple famous friends show up at your birthday party was beyond awesome while listening to his supporting band and singers throughout the night was a real treat. Witnessing the level of musicianship/expertise together in one spot was pure magic but being able to see Don doing so well at seventy years of age was even more special. His story telling, quick quips and jokes, calm mannerisms & overall joyous demeanor was well worth the price of admission for the numerous fans that came out of this night.
Tags: AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER SHOW REVIEW