Don Henley's 70th Birthday Concert
July 22nd, 2017
Someone at Don’s Q and A following his birthday concert at the American Airlines Center asked Don what made for a good show. Don replied that two things influence that. The audience has to be good. They have to be in to the show without being obnoxious. Don also said that whether or not his voice shows up also has a great deal to do with determining how good the show is. If those are the two criteria, then the birthday concert on July 22nd, was a GREAT show.
The show began like other Cass County shows with the illuminated radios playing out snippets of news and music from previous decades. There were some new clips in there, but we can’t remember them now.
The music got underway with just Don’s backup singers doing a cover of “Big D” a Jo Stafford hit from the mid 1950s. The girls were styled a la the Andrews Sisters or something.…form fitting pencil skirts, white blouses with white ties and period hairstyles. They sounded great.
After they were finished, Don and company launched into “Seven Bridges Road” and the crowd went wild. Just like in other solo shows, this was followed with a rollicking rendition of “Dirty Laundry” that seems all the more poignant in recent days.
As Don strapped on a new guitar, he thanked the crowd for coming out on one of the hottest days of the summer. He was right. It was soooo hot this weekend. In fact, when Joe Walsh came out later he remarked that he’d spent a lot of time in outer space over the years, but that this was his first concert on the sun.
Don then mimed James Brown by saying that he felt good and that he “….wasn’t sure that he would.” Don said that playing the American Airlines Center felt like home because they opened the place in 2001. People started shouting out things to Don about how much they loved him and wishing him happy birthday. Don said what he always does, “…it’s an interactive show.” He encouraged everyone to get it out of their system now.
Don introduced “Sunset Grill” by talking about the restaurant in Los Angles and the couple that ran it. We got Don’s love letter to Velveeta. Don said this is what made the burgers there great. Don said Joe the owner didn’t use individually wrapped slices, but cut big thick slices off the log of Velveeta. Don remarked that he doesn’t know what is in Velveeta, but it doesn’t require refrigeration. “It’s just there on the shelf at the supermarket. You know with the detergent. Processed cheese food, that’s what it is. It’s what cheese eats.” Don dedicated the song to Joe and all the guys in Dallas making great burgers.
The next song was “That Old Flame”. Don talked about how an old girlfriend reached out to him via the Internet. This was followed by “Witchy Woman” and “When I Stop Dreaming”
We can’t remember when, but at one point Don talked about how everyone backstage was well fed that night on Bar-B-Que from Pecan Lodge in Dallas. He gave them a plug and said it was the best Bar-B-Que in Texas. Don opined that you should play attention to lists that try to rank things…that they are bullshit. He mentioned that at Rolling Stone put out a list of the 100 greatest guitar players and Joe Walsh wasn’t on it, but they later rectified that.
Don did a lovely version of “Talking to the Moon” which has somehow morphed into “the song he only does in Texas.” It was obvious by this point that Don’s voice was in excellent form. Sometimes it takes his vocals a while to warm up, but during the show, they were spot on from the beginning.
Don then brought out Timothy B. Schmit for “I Can’t Tell You Why”. Timothy wished Don a happy birthday. It was interesting that there were female backing vocals on this version of the song.
It’s always a treat to hear Don sing “The End of the Innocence”. That was next.
Don wanted everyone to get quiet to listen to his story about the girl from Czechoslovakia who inspired part of “The Last Resort” He did the thing we do as teachers. He stood there and said, “I’ll wait for you to get quiet.” It didn’t quite work in the packed arena. At one point during his intro, Don went on a tangent about Czech food. He told people that there’s a place between Dallas and Austin called the Czech Stop that has amazing kolaches. Don called them “…heart attacks on a bun.” That’s a pretty accurate description. After the “Last Resort” Don said that it was a great song about Manifest Destiny. He’s right.
Time for another guest. Don talked a bit about Patty Smyth and how one of her big hits was “Goodbye to You.” He sang a bit of that. He bounced up and down as he did so. Patty came out and gave Don a big hug and insisted that they do a selfie, so they turned around to get the crowd in back and snapped away. Patty was wearing a very sparkly jacket and Don said he liked it. Patty said she was Don’s very own disco ball. Then they sang “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” which was a treat. We never thought we’d get the chance to hear this hit live and it was so good.
“The Heart of the Matter was next”. The crowd sang along.
One of our favorite moments in the show is “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” which Don introduced as being a “therapeutic” number by a “British duo”. He encouraged everyone to sing along.
Then it was time for Stevie Nicks. Don said that she didn’t need an introduction.
Stevie came out and wished Don a happy birthday. She told the story of how when she was writing “Leather and Lace” she would write some of it and then play it for Don. Don would shake his head and say “no…not ready yet.” This went on for weeks until eventually, just as she was about to give up on it, Don told her it was ready. Don told her that he had no recollection of that. Don and Stevie always have such great chemistry on stage. When Stevie sings, Don stands behind her and when Don sings, Stevie stands behind Don.
Stevie stuck around to play tambourine on “Boys of Summer.” Don said that was okay because she’s “…very good at it.”
Then it was time for Joe to come out. It took a little while. Don said that this was the part of the problem of playing with a band. People wander off and you have to round them up. Joe finally emerged and started with Rocky Mountain Way (Don took a break). Timothy joined in as well.
“Life in the Fastlane” certainly took on new meaning. This was the first time we’d seen Joe, Don and Timothy together live since Glenn passed away. Don played drums on the Eagles songs and while there was so much joy on stage, there was also a big empty space where Glenn should have been. It was hard to watch and we got a bit teary. The same thing happened during “Hotel California” which came next.
Seeing the remaining Eagles playing together wasn’t just special for the audience. Don’s guitar player, Chris Holt, had the biggest smile on his face and seemed thrilled to be playing with Joe Walsh. We noticed he couldn’t keep his eyes off of Joe.
Don dedicated the next two songs to Glenn because they had written them together. First up was “Wasted Time”, which he did it as a duet with Lara. This was followed by “Desperado”.
Don said that he still had a couple of songs left in him and that he wasn’t ready to stop. “All She Wants to Do is Dance was next. Stevie played tambourine and stood by Don’s backup singers. From reading their social media posts, this was a very special moment for all of them. They couldn’t believe they were singing next to Ms. Stevie Nicks.
The show ended with Don saying that he was going to cover a song by a legend who was playing that evening just three hours to the East. Then Don started singing the Beatles’ “Birthday” with the entire ensemble. Patty was a little late joining in. White balloons fell from the ceiling and it was incredibly special to be there in that moment.
Just a few other notes. The ushers told us that because it was his birthday, Don was allowing people to take a few photos with their camera. We tried to be very discreet and snap some just during special times. Don’s voice was amazing and he was in a great mood. He told us the next night that he was relieved that his “…voice showed up” and he also mentioned that he got a bit overwhelmed with gratitude because he knew he was lucky to have had the life he does and to still be able to do what he does (we all are too). If we had to criticize anything, it would be that sometimes the sound was off. That might have been because we were right up front. Friends further back said they didn’t notice how some of the guest vocals were really soft. We also wish that the show hadn’t been hyped to include more special guests than were previously announced. Everyone kept anticipating a surprise guest. We wish Don had pulled out a few more covers like he did at his Greek Theater show a few years ago. We also kind of hoped he would end by quoting a few lines from Dylan Thomas and then launch into a blistering “I Will Not Go Quietly”, but “Birthday” was a great treat.
This isn’t complaining. It was an excellent and special occasion and we are so glad we could share it with Don.