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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Eagle

I'm 51.  Since Glenn Frey was my age, I believe I've been to only two concerts.  Don Henley at Radio City Music Hall in 2000, and Don Henley at the Beacon Theatre just a few months ago.

Henley was, Henley is, "my" Eagle.  I think Hotel California, with lead vocals by Henley, is the best Eagles song.  If I walk into a store and hear New Kid in Town playing on the radio, I'll walk in and walk out.  If I hear Hotel California, I'll linger, wait, hold off until the final notes have played, as Glenn Frey's final notes played today.

I wouldn't have Henley if I didn't have The Eagles.  Henley and I wouldn't have The Eagles if it weren't for Glenn Frey.  Henley far surpassed Frey as a solo artist, but I wouldn't have purchased Henley's album I Can't Stand Still if it weren't for The Eagles, for Frey.  I wouldn't have my Dirty Laundry, down at the Sunset Grill, while Building the Perfect Beast for The Boys of Summer during the End of the Innocence.  Henley proved himself to be more than The Eagles, but many of the songs in his solo career have their roots in The Eagles.  The song writers were Eagles song writers, the instrumentations reflect the California easy rock of The Eagles, the tone and tenor are totally redolent of The Eagles.  Henley's biggest hit, The Boys of Summer, wouldn't have been out of place on the album Hotel California, and Glenn Frey could easily have done the vocals.

I don't listen to music much at all, any more.  Haven't really for years.  But if you're wondering how to place this in my biography, Building the Perfect Beast is the only album I purchased on LP, cassette, and CD.  In fact, it was the very first album I purchased to listen to on my very first CD players.

I meant to talk some about the Henley concert at the Beacon Theatre.  As someone who works with creative types, I was fascinated by the dynamic, the yin/yang push/pull between Henley's desire to do whatever he damn well pleased because he could afford to, and his need to do what his fans wanted, because he couldn't afford not to.

It was a dynamic that didn't exist a way long time ago when I saw Mark Knopfler do a solo concert where he couldn't bring himself to do anything that might actually make a Dire Straits fan happy.  He did some of their big hits, but it always felt like a car that was stalling as it got started, like tires spinning in ice.  Mark Knopfler didn't give a shit, performed like he didn't give a shit, I left that night no longer giving a shit about Mark Knopfler, either.

So Henley did weird covers, but it was actually kind of interesting to hear Don Henley do a take on "I've Got a Spell on You."  Not, really, what I paid to see.  But worth hearing.

He did the occasional deep catalog surprise.

Less satisfying, Henley did song after song after song from his new album.  Sadly, more than enough songs for anyone to tell that the new album wasn't near as good as the old albums.  The orchestrations and instrumentations might have fit comfortably on the old albums.  The melodies might have fit comfortably on the old albums.  Alas, the lyrics wouldn't have fit at all.  The songs Henley and his collaborators wrote for his albums in the 1980s and 1990s had a richness not just of sound but of emotion, a depth of feeling as resonant as the trombone solos on Sunset Grill.  The new songs don't have that.  They have one note.  I got Cass County the weekend it came out as one of those things you do at my age, buying the physical product to have on the shelf and to support the artist who meant something once.  I heard almost every song on the album at the concert.  And the plastic shrink wrap is still covering up the CD, because Henley made it abundantly clear that it's not worth my time to get to know this album further.

But ultimately, Henley did every song you came to see.  Just when you thought you were stuck in Cass County forever and ever, out came three of the classics.  Done well.  Performed with heart.  With a voice that's surprisingly resonant after all these years.  That was a lot like the song you listened to over and over again, a decade and another decade and another gone by.

It wasn't a cheap night out.  Didn't find out about the concert until long after it was on sale.  StubHub had me at "hello."  Not a problem; if you do something every fifteen years there's no harm in splurging on it.  I paid to see Don Henley, but I also did it because of Glenn Frey.

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