In June I attended a
Don Henley concert at the new
MGM Casino at National Harbor, MD. As a long time Eagles fan I wondered if he would back away from that musical heritage since his original Eagles partner Glenn Frey had passed away. Perhaps he would focus on his own catalog of music plus songs from his latest album, Cass County, released in 2015. Cass County is the county in Texas where Henley was born.
The stage was set with a large number of vintage table radios hanging well above it. The opening consisted of spotlights picking out one vintage radio after another while snippets of songs covering 7 or so decades of time played. In a way it was a preface to the broad range of time the songs he would sing covered.
Henley was backed up by a surprisingly large group of very talented musicians including long-time Eagles collaborator, guitarist
Steuart Smith, three female backup singers, 2 keyboardists, another guitar player, a bassist and a 5-man brass section! At one point he even quipped that "bigger is better, but expensive" to the delight of the crowd.
The group opened with an instrument free, a capella version of "Seven Bridges Road" which was excellent. They went on to play a broad range of Henley individual, Eagles group and some cover songs from other musicians including
Garth Brooks' "
It Don't Matter to the Sun" and an even more unlikely cover in a faithful rendition of
Tears for Fears "
Everybody Wants to Rule the World".
There were several duets with the back-up singers, replicating duets from
Cass County. One of my all-time favorite Henley songs is the bluesy "
New York Minute" which was performed with every bit of emotion you'd hope for. It included the haunting horn solo from the brass section as well. When it was over Henley said, "I really like that song". Me too.
Another highlight was the rarely played closing track from the "
Hotel California" album, "
The Last Resort", as the story, superb instrumentation and building emotion built to a powerful crescendo.
These talented musicians did a spectacular job of replicating the musicality, emotional content and dynamics of the Eagles themselves. There wasn't a dud or misstep throughout the main show or the two encores. Henley only played guitar and sang, he didn't play the drums at all which I thought was a bit unusual.
Just as an aside, the sound system was excellent and allowed for clear understanding of the lyrics and the ability to hear individual instruments in the mix; pretty rare, in my live show experiences.