Don Henley/JD and the Straight Shot
Budweiser Stage – June 13, 2017
Concert review by Darren Hancock
Thirty-five vintage radios hung suspended on wires above the Budweiser Stage, setting the tone for what was to be a walk through history. Warming up the crowd was opening act ‘JD and the Straight Shot’, a country blues and roots rock band from New York. Frontman and guitarist James Dolan (“JD”) is the CEO for Cablevision Systems Corporation and Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman, donned sunglasses and a red velvet blazer as he introduced their first song “Glide”, a bluegrassy number that showcased the bands’ musicianship. Next was a song off their 2016 record ‘Ballyhoo!’ called “Redemption Train” featuring an amazing fiddle solo from violinist Erin Slaver. In addition to featuring the groups big harmonies on the 70’s band ‘Spirit’ hit “Nature’s Way”, the band also showcased some movie soundtrack songs including “Perdition” from Natalie Portman’s 2015 movie ‘Jane Got a Gun’ and “Violet’s Song” from the 2013 Meryl Streep hit film “August: Osange County”. Following a performance of the song “Moonlight” about a man who falls in love with a female statue in the park, JD introduced the band on stage, including Saturday Night Live drummer Shawn Pelton, Erin Slaver on violin, “Lord” Byron House on standup bass, and Marc Copely on guitar. After a brief absence from the stage, JD returned with a costume change wearing a scarf and top hat, explaining the title track from their latest record ‘Ballyhoo!’, a term used in the 1850’s to define the activity of causing a commotion to get people’s attention directed at the travelling carnivals known as “causing a ballyhoo”. As Erin masterfully played the violin, JD encouraged everyone to “Step right up”, and the songs tempo gradually increased to a fever pitch while the crowd was entertained with a fiddle/guitar duel between Erin and Marc. Following their melodic single with catchy chorus “Better Find A Church”, the band closed the show with a ‘Little Feat’ song “Let It Roll”, featuring a washboard for percussion, JD playing lead licks on an acoustic, a bass and fiddle solo, a digression into “Wipeout” for a drum solo (a crowd pleaser) and ‘The Champs’ 1958 instrumental smash hit “Tequila”, with a final guitar riff from Rolling Stones “Painted Black” to close the set. JD exclaimed “Thank you and enjoy Don Henley..!!”
After a brief intermission, over the PA came audio clips from radio broadcasts throughout the ages… being tuned to different stations (lighting up a different suspended radio with each ‘station change’), featuring songs from different eras, like the Everly Brothers “All I have To Do Is Dream”, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, a clip President Kennedy’s speech “Ask not what your country can do for you…” Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech, each clip walking the audience through the history. Enter Don Henley with an eleven-piece band, singing Eagles smash hit “Seven Bridges Road”, immediately working the crowd into a frenzy. Following his hit “Dirty Laundry”, Henley addressed the crowd and told everyone they would be performing about two hours of music spanning four decades (43 years worth) “because we can”. A five piece horn section joined the stage for “Sunset Grill” making the total count musician sixteen, after which Henley remarked “As you can see I brought a few people with me… not very profitable but it’s fun.” Commenting on how fun is necessary because the world has “gone batshit crazy”, Henley also told the Ontario fans that is was good to be across the border, stating he thinks they’ll stay. Featuring a track from the 2015 album ‘Cass County’ entitled “That Old Flame”, a very competent female backup singer filled the shoes of Martina Mcbride who performed the duet on the album with Henley. Next was a “new rant on an old song” as they played a slightly different version of the 1972 Eagles tune “Witchy Woman”, and Henley remarked it was the way they should have done it the first time. Another single from ‘Cass County’ entitled “When I Stop Dreaming” featured Dolly Parton on the record, filled in by another female backup singer named Erica. “New York Minute” was a powerful number, followed by Eagles monster hit “One Of These Nights” and Cass County expanded edition single “It Don’t Matter to the Sun”. Henley left no emotional stone unturned, and paid tribute to his “lost brother” Glen Frey with Eagles hit “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. The crowd lost their minds when the first few piano notes started the familiar notes to “End Of The Innocence”, after which Henley told a story of how he met a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman in a bar in Colorado in the spring of 1973; he recalled she had a jacket with fringes and a skirt, and after a few tequilas he stepped in front of her, introduced himself and they became friends. She was born in Czechoslovakia which in the spring of ’68 was under communist rule. Her family fled to Providence Rhode Island, and she had a half-finished cabin which Henley helped finish! He wrote the next song “The Last Resort” about the woman and his experience with her. A class act the whole way, Henley took the time to introduce all sixteen band members before singing his 1989 hit “Heart Of The Matter” making the fans go crazy. The next number Henley announced he sings “for therapy”, ‘Tears For Fears’ classic “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, followed by his monster hit “Boys Of Summer” to close the show. Returning for FIVE encores: “Life In The Fast Lane”, “Hotel California”, “Wasted Time”, “Desperado” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”, Don Henley left the fans completely satisfied and enthralled to have seen a legend perform live.