Talking movies, music and other close encounters of the social media kind.
TSB Bank Arena. I’m sitting in my seat. Row T 25. The beautiful Jewel has just finished her set. On my right is a couple in their mid 50s. On my left – a couple in their late 40s. Our row is right in the middle of the front stalls. Next to the sound control desk.
As I take a sip of my Vodka and Red Bull in a styrofoam cup, I look around the whole arena.
There’s a lot of old people here.
I take another sip. I look down at my $150 ticket – and stare at the printed picture of an old and weary looking man with a frazzled grey beard. Wearing RayBan Sunglasses.
This old looking man is the main reason why all these old looking people are here tonight. Including myself.
Don Henley. The drummer of the Eagles is in Wellington tonight.
He’s the singer/songwriter team of the country rock group the EAGLES who with their sweet harmonies and laidback rock sound represented the Southern California music scene, and with it commercial rock music in the 1970s. Along with Glenn Frey (may he rest in peace) wrote country-rock classics such as ‘Taking it Easy’ ‘Tequila Sunrise’, ‘Take it to the Limit’ ‘Heartache Tonight’ and of course, the immortalised rock epic that is ‘Hotel California’ a song you either love or loave… the place where; ‘you could check out any time you like but you can never leave.’
That iconic ‘Hotel’ that’s shown on the album cover is the Beverly Hills Hotel, located on Sunset Boulevard.
I tried to take a quick photo of the hotel while we drove past on the tour bus to Hollywood in 2014. As you can see it doesn’t quite have that haunting effect and mood of the album cover shot:
I liked Don Henley’s solo music before I came across the Eagles. His albums ‘Building The Perfect Beast’ in 1986 and brilliant ‘The End of the Innocence’ in 1989 had a strong influence on me when I was at high school. Plus he was a drummer. Not only that he was a drummer who could sing.
“Hey, do you know anything about Instagram?”
The lady on the left was using the app on her smartphone for the first time , and wanted to take a photo of the stage, so I obliged to help her. Take photo. Choose filter. Write caption. Choose a million hashtags. Share it to the digital world. Done.
She then proceeded to share five photos of her two dogs on the app. In between choosing the right Instagram filter (you can’t go wrong with Amaro – trust me) we then chatted along with her partner about Don Henley and his songs;
“So, what song are you looking forward to hearing him sing?”
They both answered the usual Eagles standards – ‘Hotel California’, ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ ‘One Of These Nights’
“And what about you?”
I answered; “most of his solo stuff but The Boys of Summer is my favourite”. They both seem to nod in agreement – and looked at each other like I was a bit too young to know any Eagles songs anyway.
I enjoyed listening to his music when I was at high school. His well-known tracks evoke a strong sense of place – from the lonely city streets of a “New York Minute“, the funky Indian mysticism of Shangri-La , the burger bar joint in Santa Monica Pier down at the “Sunset Grill” (which I managed to buy a tee shirt of at the concert) , the romanticised Americana of ‘The End of the Innocence’ to his epic song of lost love amongst the empty beach and wayfarer sunglasses of The Boys of Summer”
THE BOYS OF SUMMER
I remember hearing the song blasting out of someone’s radio while walking from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach in October 2014. The row of Palm trees slightly swaying. Sun shining brightly. And all the colourful looking people walking along the stretch that is Ocean Front Road.
It was the perfect place to hear that song.
The sound of that track…it is the beach. The sand. The waves. The raging surf. It’s the image of Southern California back in the 1980s. Sun-soaked in surfboards, sunglasses, brown skin and sun-blonde hair. Don Henley took the best of the Eagles sound of the 70’s (which included his unique voice) and lashed it onto a contemporary 80’s beat.
From the opening pulse of the hi-hat cymbal and the rim-shot on the snare, to the sharp atmospheric sound of the lead guitar, which sits up like a glassy wave on an off-shore breeze. The synthesiser starts a rolling melody, smoothly playing over the song like a never ending wave. You can literally feel the ocean spray on your face and the sand on your feet in those first few seconds of the song.
But there’s an underlying melancholy, with screeching guitar notes that sound like crying seagulls that play near the end of the track. (credit goes to Tom Petty’s guitarist Mike Campbell for that lick and who also co-wrote the song with Henley).
And when Henley starts to sing…the lyrics hint of a paradise lost.
Nobody on the road,
Nobody on the beach.
I feel it in the air,
The summer’s out of reach.
Empty lake, empty streets,
The sun goes down alone.
I’m driving by your house
Don’t know you’re not home
The whole song evokes a sense of nostalgia and the disappointment of the past. He wants to get his past love back, but by the the end of the song he realises he has to move on.
Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.
A little voice inside my head said:
“Don’t look back, you can never look back.”
I thought I knew what love was.
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever.
I should just let ’em go…
(You can listen to the song below)
I remember Henley in the music video – made in the hey day of MTV Music Videos – looking slightly awkward in front of the camera singing the song – which I always liked. The final frame when he moves out of shot and into his car is a classic Scorsese Taxi Driver moment as you see him on the rear view mirror as he drives along the dark lonely streets of L.A…
I take another sip of my Vodka and Red Bull.
The lady next to me has suddenly stopped sending Instagram photos of her dog.
That’s because Don Henley has appeared on stage with his 15 piece band.
Everyone stands up to applaud.
This Eagle has landed.
Another bucket list tick.
And the concert itself? Of course it was great. He did struggle to sing some of the high notes on his 80s hits (he is 69 years old after all). But when it came to The Eagles set, he didn’t miss a beat. Life in the Fast Lane rocked just as hard as when the Eagles first played it in 1977 (man, it would’ve been something if the great Eagles Guitarist Joe Walsh was here).
His dry wit and humour also made the evening fun – lamenting on how his beloved USA “has gone bat-shit crazy” with Trump in charge and even mentioning that he may hide in the Milford Sounds for a while.
He paid tribute to his songwriting partner Glenn Frey who passed away last year, by singing Desperado and Wasted Time.
And just to add to the nostalgic festivity, Don promptly told the crowd to stand up and ‘dance’ as the band went into the Tears For Fears 80’s anthem ‘Everybody wants to rule the World’ which was a pleasant surprise for all.
And then the lights went down, and out of the dark came the opening guitar riff of Hotel California -like witnessing a sacred page of rock history unfold before our very eyes, everybody, baby boomers and all, stood up and cheered.
The drummer of the Eagles is about to take us all on that famous dark desert highway.
And, for the next 7 minutes, the TSB Arena became the place where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
I don’t think anyone wants to leave tonight.