It's kind of ironic. In our last blog post, we wrote about the time we went to Ames, Iowa for a Henley concert in 1991 only to find out it was cancelled for a reason we never learned. We went through a little bit of that this past weekend, but this time, we were very much in the loop.
Some of you who are friends with us on Facebook know that our trip to Chicago didn't start out very auspiciously. We meant to fly into Chicago on Thursday night. Our plans included some tourist stuff during the day on Friday, seeing Hamilton Friday night and then attending the Henley concert at the Huntington Pavilion at Northerly Island on Saturday night (Melissa's birthday). To make a long story short, our flight out of San Antonio was delayed. We were supposed to leave at 7:00 PM. We decided to cancel our flight and book something else when we were notified that the flight had been bumped to 2:18 am...getting into Chicago at 5 am (They ultimately cancelled the flight and rebooked people on something the next day that would have meant us missing Hamilton). So, Thursday night, we went home and flew to Chicago from Austin on Friday morning.
We had been watching the weather. Storms were predicted for the Chicago area on Saturday night, but in the summer, these things are often hit and miss. Sometimes the storms don't materialize, or a line of storms blows through an area and then everything clears up. We knew that we were going to have to be flexible and be prepared for the worst...a cancelled concert.
Saturday was beautiful, but those storms still loomed on the radar maps. We got to the show and as JD and the Straight Shot played for the crowd, we could see the sky in the west grow darker and darker. A few raindrops plopped down, but it was nothing we couldn't live with. The tickets said "rain or shine" and we knew a Henley show in the rain might be an adventure.
The problem, though, is that while rain is an acceptable condition for a show, lightning and storms are not. They put the artist and the audience in danger. As they were setting up for Don's set after JD, instruments that had been uncovered were suddenly covered again. Then announcements were made in the venue and posted on their social media....
It was actually kind of scary when this first announcement was made. Melissa was at the t-shirt stand trying to buy rain ponchos. She didn't have her phone because it was dead. All of a sudden, there was something muffled on the loudspeaker and people were heading toward the gates. One woman was screaming, telling everyone to leave and that the show had been cancelled. That wasn't the case, though. This was a temporary evacuation. Because of lightning in the area, they had to get people to shelter and they were right to do what they did. Our group (we were attending the show with long time Eagle-buddy, Julie) was lucky to find each other. The directions we had were to head to the "north garage". It was confusing where that was. From talking with people, we learned that it was somewhere under Soldier Field.
That seemed like a long way away, plus as die-hard Packers fans, there was no way we were going to set foot in Soldier Field. We took cover under a grove of trees with about 200 other fans (the lightning wasn't in the area at the time and there was a restroom we could take shelter in if the rain turned into anything more deadly.) We had been told to watch social media, so we did....
This was good news. We could see on the radar that the storms were moving out over Lake Michigan. We were hopeful. The only thing that concerned us was if there would be a curfew. We did have an unexpected treat and ran into Florida fan, Ursula and her daughter. Everyone in that grove of trees remained hopeful that the show would go on.
Then we saw this...
Yeah! Within about 10 minutes, they opened up the gates. They quickly wanded everyone and made sure people knew to return to their original seats. People were really good about that for the most part. It was an orderly process. Thanks to group member, Jennifer, who sent her husband over to wipe our seats off for us. We appreciated it!
Within minutes, Don and his band took the stage and launched right into 7 Bridges Road. Don was in great voice and you couldn't tell that we had all endured some pretty unique circumstances. After the song, Don told us that they could only play until 11:30, but they were going to do their best to play as many songs as possible in that time.
And that is exactly what they did. We got 13 songs. It felt like what you might get at a corporate show or a shared bill show. No songs from Cass County...no duets with the girls...just the hits (Plus Everybody Wants to Rule the World).
So let's talk about the two words I used in the title of this post....Dedication and Disappointment.
Dedication. The fans who came back were most assuredly dedicated. We withstood rain and storms and delays and returned ready to rock. This smaller group was unlike crowds at other Henley shows. There really weren't any "sitting songs". People were on their feet most of the night. We were wet and bedraggled and tired, but we had a good time. In the songs that mentioned rain (like New York Minute.. "You can get out of the rain") everyone cheered and Don laughed. While our show was shorter, we certainly all have a story to tell.
Don's band and crew were amazing. They changed instruments with precision to make sure there was no "wasted time" on stage. Julie remarked that there is more of a break between songs on her CDs than there was at that show. Everyone acted professionally and did their best to make sure that the show that happened was the best that could be had under the circumstances.
That brings us to Don. I think he really found himself between a rock and a hard place. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. There was almost no banter...no story telling or jokes between songs. Knowing what Don has said about some of the reasons the Eagles decided to go forward after Glenn's passing, it makes sense. Don knows that the crowd comes to hear their favorite songs. This was not the time or place for obscure album cuts or duets with his background singers. So he played all of his hits. Boys of Summer, Sunset Grill, Hotel California, Heart of the Matter...if it was a hit, Don played it. I've read some comments about how Don seemed like he didn't want to be there. We were in the 2nd row and it really seemed that he was working his butt off to get in the best show he could have. He frequently and quickly conferred with Will Hollis, the musical director. We assume it was to tweak the setlist to maximize the time he was able to perform.
That being said, let's talk a little about disappointment because we know there are a lot of unhappy fans. Some people fell victim to the sloppy miscommunication from the venue and some couldn't stay out in the rain. Some people feel cheated by the shortened set list and others think the show should have been rescheduled. Here's what we think. Remember...this is just our opinion.
First of all...for some people, Don Henley may be God, but he doesn't control the weather. There was nothing to be done about the storms. We had wondered if maybe things would have been better if they had cancelled JD and the Straight Shot and had Don take the stage at 7:30. Because of the timing of the storms, though, we still would have ended up with a 75 minute show. The evacuation order came in at about 8:45. I don't think they would have taken a break and come back for more. It just would have ended at that point.
Some people think the show could have been rescheduled, but that's more difficult than it sounds. Don's tour ended the next night in St. Paul. In order to reschedule, they would have had to find a time in the future to get the band together and get the equipment back to Chicago for just one show. That just isn't practical...especially with July being taken up with the Classic shows and Don's birthday party.
It is also true that the venue could have handled things better. They told people to check "social media" but didn't tell people exactly what media to check. Their updates were clear and informative, but you had to be able to find them. Some people really were left with the impression that the concert was cancelled, so they left. I don't know if there is anything to be done about that.
It sucks. It does. Are we personally disappointed? Just a little. We had really wanted to hear Don do "Peaceful Easy Feeling" in honor of Glenn. We wish he had cut one of the slower songs (like New York Minute) so he could have gotten to that one. Right before Desperado, someone came out and showed Don something on a cell phone. We don't know if it was a weather update or an official notice that he HAD to be off the stage by 11:30 or what, but at that point, he held up one finger telling the band that Desperado would be it. Maybe they could have squeezed in Peaceful Easy Feeling (The show ended about 3 or 4 minutes before 11:30), but we're sure Don did what he thought was best or what he was required to do. We should note that about 2 minutes after Don left the stage, the heavens opened up and we got the heaviest rain of the night. We were soaked.
This will for sure be a show we will always remember. We're glad it wasn't cancelled. We're glad we got to meet so many other great fans. We're glad we got to hang out with Julie. We bet at some point, we'll hear Don sing Peaceful Easy Feeling again. We're sorry so many people are disappointed. We're proud of Don and his band for doing the best they could in difficult circumstances.
It's like the song says, "It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you".