The year is 1994, I’m a nine-year-old dancing on the marble coffee table in our living room and blasting my mom’s Don Henley Actual Miles: Greatest Hits album. “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” blares from the six-feet-tall speakers lined next to the rows of radio equipment. I know every word. I memorized the lyrics using the inside of the CD jacket which pictured a used car salesman and a bright yellow starburst.
Fast-forward to 2017 and I’m sitting in The Fox Theatre ten rows from the stage where Don Henley is getting ready to give a show I will never forget.
I was able to catch the last two songs of the opener JD and The Straight Shot, an Americana band featuring vocalist/guitarist Jim Dolan, bassist Byron House, and violinist/fiddler Erin Slaver. I enjoyed the Johnny Cash undertones of the performance, it was reminiscent of the Ed Helms Superjams during Bonnaroo. Chock-full of good ol’ American soul. Before Dolan walked off the stage he gave the crowd a hint about Henley's upcoming performance pointing to the antique radios hanging from the ceiling over the stage.
"People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,” are the words of President Nixon that rang into our ears as the antique radios were lit up one by one.
Each time a new one had a light shone on it another line from an emotional speech or politically charged song from the ‘60s and ‘70s turned on. I was already fascinated by the time Don Henley made his way to the stage. During the first song, “Seven Bridges Road” in the middle of singing Henley pointed to someone in the audience with their phone out and said sternly, “Put that away!”
I can’t lie, I was a little put off by an audience member who probably paid in the upwards of $200 for a seat being scolded about using their phone in 2017. It took me a minute to shake off the feeling but once the band started playing “Dirty Laundry” all was forgiven. The entire stage of the Fox Theatre was occupied by 15 performers ranging from vocals to guitar to synth. The three female singers each stepped up at different points in the evening to perform songs with Henley from his latest album Cass Country.
One thing I found rather odd was that during most of the performance patrons remained seated. People would stand up in excitement when a new song started and then look around at the rest of the folks around them who were still seated and feel forced to sit back down. This was certainly something new for me to witness which apparently mirrors performances in Europe.
In between songs, Henley told us stories about hanging out at the Sunset Grill and the time he was in Aspen and met the woman who inspired lyrics from Eagles hit, “The Last Resort.” One thing both of those stories had in common were that they were both about immigrants coming to America. He bragged about the immigrant owner of the Sunset Grill knowing the names of all of his customers and the woman in Aspen who was a refugee from the now Czech Republic.
“For now, until Putin decides he’s going to do God knows what with it,” Henley said sarcastically.
“The whole world has gone crazy,” Henley said at one point in the show, a direct attack on our newly elected president.
I was shocked that in a room full of (mostly) white people with gray hair Henley shunned the conservatives in office with absolutely zero shame. Of course, I cheered loudly, it was refreshing to hear and I was still on a high from the women's marches the day before.
“This isn’t our song, but we have been performing it to keep ourselves sane, “ Henley stated before he and his band performed Tears for Fears' “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
As the show was nearing its end, encore number one consisted of two Eagles hits, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Hotel California,” the only song we were encouraged to bring out our phones and record. At that point, I was grateful that Henley had given such a strict cell phone policy. It became apparent during “Hotel California” how distracting everyone recording was from the show. He asked everyone to put them away again during the final encore but still, some people ignored him and continued to distract away from “Wasted Time” and “Desperado.” Before singing the two Eagles hits, Henley said it was only appropriate he close out the show with those songs written by him and his long-time friend, Glenn Frey, who passed away last year.
At 69-years-old, Henley’s voice still sounds the same as I remember when I was a little girl. I’m thankful to have a mother who exposed me to such timeless music at a young age. They simply don’t make music like that anymore. Thank you Mr. Henley, you’re a freaking legend.
Photos by Missy Stowell for Bullet Music