It would be easy to dismiss Don Henley as a grumpy old man, but that would be a mistake.
Fifty years to the day after the release of Take it Easy, their first hit record, the co-founder of The Eagles has chiseled a Sinatra-esque ‘my way’ niche in the rock ‘n roll pantheon and seems comfortable in his own skin.
I’ve never met the man, so my impressions are formed by watching him from afar and sometimes up close over fifty years. Like many of my peers, my Eagles fandom charts like an inverted bell curve.
Henley and Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey (who died six years ago) had me at that corner in Winslow, Arizona, brought me back on The Long Road Out of Eden, and for the last dozen years, I’ve been there, reliving the glory days. My wife and I have seen them in Sandstone, Vegas (twice), Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Kansas City, now Nashville. Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
“NashVegas…” Henley sneered on stage, knowing.
With its’ neon and mobile bachelorette parties, Nashville seems light years from Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb at the Ryman.
Timothy Schmit, Joe Walsh and even Frey stand-in Vince Gill, a star in his own right, take a backseat to front man Henley, who telegraphed the band’s intention to play “music that has a melody…” leaving it to us to discern whether today’s does.
Google the man, every photo is a purposeful scowl.
Henley’s insistence that video recording of their performance is a copyright violation and then asking the poor, overworked rent-a-cops to enforce it in an arena full of 20-thousand adoring fans seems kind of silly. Technically, he’s right, but it all assumes the rent-a-cops get it and have the ability to effectively communicate it in a manner that those doing the recording stand down willingly. Otherwise, it just smacks of stubbornness.
Still, you gotta admire a man who has landed on a business model that works. Fifty years in, at 74, Don Henley has clearly found a place to make his stand.