It was a pleasant summer evening that seem to be a perfect Father’s Day, as many made their way to the Xcel Energy Center to catch an evening performance with Don Henley. When I arrived, a quick look around, you could easily see the flock of people of all ages sporting their Eagles shirts and moving quickly through the gates, eager to see the legendary performer.
First to hit the stage was JD & The Straight Shot. Their songs combine country, blues, and folk together to make their southern style, old school American music. It was really nice to see a band emphasize the talents of their band members, and with multiple violin solos and the range of percussion used by the single drummer at any given time was an example of that.
JD & The Straight Shot is a group of musicians with a fairly impressive résumé. Bassist Byron House has played for the likes of Robert Plant and Dolly Parton, violinist and fiddler Erin Slaver has done work with Rod Stewart, and Marc Copley was a guitarist for Rosanne Cash. Singer James Dolan on the other hand, is more of a businessman — the CEO of Madison Square Garden Company, to be exact.
The band played some of their songs from their new record, Ballyhoo!, along with some of their older work, and two covers. Although their movements were a little more static compared to other bands, it was clear they were enjoying themselves up onstage, especially with what seem like fun songs to play, such as “Redemption Train” and “Moving Light”. Ballyhoo! was the highlight of their act. Dolan “changed personas” as he described it, adding a top hat and scarf to his get-up and giving the audience a history lesson on ballyhoos. The lyrics included mentions of two-headed children, wolfmen, and other circus tropes. It was the circus style of music, and Slaver and Copley’s brief on stage moments of trying to outplay each other that made things interesting, even if it was a slower paced song.
After a short break, the moment had arrived for Don Henley to take the stage. As the lights dimmed, the intro began with static, then Winston Churchill’s famous speech of fear echoed through the arena. As it played, lights were shining on the different radios hanging from the rafters of the set. Speeches from the likes of Martin Luther King transitioned into famous songs from bands like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, until Henley emerged from the darkness, causing the crowd to stand and cheer loudly as Henley’s ensemble gathered round, kicked things into full gear with “Seven Bridges Road”.
“I brought a few people with me, is that OK?”, Henley stated and he was right. The stage was littered with performers; three back up singers, a percussionist, brass instrument players, several guitarists, a bassist, pianist, and so many more instruments were present that night. They worked together to put on one entertaining night.
Henley is known for his work as the drummer for the Eagles, so it’s no wonder the crowd was filled with t-shirt wearers sporting their trophy shirts from decades past. It also wasn’t hard for Henley to get the crowd to clap along to his songs or cheer when he needed them to. For a 69-year-old, he seemed to be doing well for himself. He may not have been running around the stage or diving into the crowd, but there was a lot of effort put into the night; anecdotes about songs, making jokes and poking fun at the state of American politics.
Covering 42 years of music in over two hours, Henley performed a few of his newer songs. Of course, being that the majority of his fans would be older, he did play a lot of songs from his days as an Eagles member and his ’80s solo career. Although audience members cheered for every song no matter the age, hits like “Witchy Woman”, “The End of Innocence”, and “Dirty Laundry” received even more praise. Talking about the current state of U.S. politics, Henley belted out Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule The World”, causing the audience to stand up in their seats and engage in a little dance.
Sadly all good things have to end at some point. In stellar fashion, Henley finished with classic icing on the cake by playing “Life in the Fast Lane”, “Hotel California”, and of course the heartfelt “Desperado”.