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Don Henley Smooths the Fans.7/18/00 Berkeley,CA.
.......Don Henley has
always been a conflicted artist, torn between the virtues of rock and easy
listening, simplicity and excess, austerity and greed. At his best, the
constant back-and-forth produced sounds that epitomized certain eras in the
'70s and '80s.
.......At the Berkeley
Community Theatre on Tuesday night, comparing the Eagles to the Beatles sounds
like a stretch, consider that the California country-rockers defined the '70s
in much the same way as the Fab Four did the '60s. With a series of indelible
songs, the Eagles captured their era's self-centered party spirit and how it
eroded into cocaine-fueled decadence better than almost any other band. The
52-year-old Henley has played a similar role as a solo performer, chronicling
his generation's triumphs with withering directness on four solo albums spread
over 18 years.
a red-curtained, stained-glass, faux-cathedral stage set, the singer was joined
by a core seven-piece band, a seven-piece horn section, an 11-member gospel
choir, and two Irish folk players who were trotted out for a version of the
traditional "Lyla." That's a total of 28 musicians on stage. Henley
only managed to prompt the crowd out of its comfortable $86 seats a handful of
times during a 2 1/2-hour performance.
delivering the predictable Eagles hits: a rollicking version of "Life in the Fast Lane," a rote take on "The Long Run" and a reworking of "Hotel California" that pretended to be something
new but really just added a ska horn section that trampled all over the
haunting qualities of the tune's consumer-as-cannibal nightmare. The rest of
the long set list was devoted to '80s solo hits ("The End of the Innocence," "Dirty
Laundry") and tracks from the new album "Inside Job." such as "Nobody Else in the World But You" and "Everything Is
......You've got to give
Henley, who turns 53 on Saturday, credit for his longtime commitment to
environmental issues, a commitment that seems to run far deeper than the usual
Hollywood celebrity endorsement of the cause of the day. He donated tonight
show to this cause.
music always displayed a frightening precision--the sure hand of top-flight
surgeons at work. Henley's music was challenging himself as a vocalist came
during "They're Not Here, They're Not
Coming." A funny and sarcastic new tune suggesting that aliens
would never want to visit a Chicken McNuggets, Oprah Winfrey-dominated world
where radio won't play George Jones or Merle Haggard.
compensated with textural details, employing a gospel choir, a string quartet,
a handful of Celtic musicians and a horn section. Henley and company produced a
big, warm sound, and the soulful gospel choir added extra energy and excitement
by dancing up a storm. "Sunset Grill"
and "Boys of Summer" captured the
sun-glazed exhaustion of early '80s California, "The
Heart of the Matter" ached for "forgiveness" , and
"For My Wedding" and "Everything is
Different Now" greeted the new century with optimism. Don Henley
didn't sound very happy. If this evening was about anything, it was about an
artist who takes his work-and himself-very, very seriously.
By Randy Cohen
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