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Henley goes his own way

Blue Hills Pavillion, Boston, September 20, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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When Don Henley's name pops into music conversation, chances are that the Eagles immediately come to mind instead of his solo career. The Eagles have long been a mainstay from their Cali sound of the '70s to what now would be labeled country after all these years.

And it was that country vibe that Henley explored quite successfully on last year's "Cass County," a solo ode to Henley's Texas musical roots with such artists as the late Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack and more helping out on the artist's fifth solo album.

Thus, Henley's back on the road with music spanning his four-decade career. Henley and his backing band started with a sturdy reading of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," which the Eagles put on their 1980 live album. Performed a capella, Henley and company beautifully blended their vocals in a sign of what was to come.

In fact, Henley made that clear with a top shelf take on his "Dirty Laundry" and a new song, "That Old Flame" from "Cass County."

That's about set the deck for how the evening would unveil, a mix of Eagles songs, old Henley material with a (very) few new songs sprinkled in.

At 69, Henley's voice maintains its grittiness with an ability to hit the high notes as well. He received help from a backing trio of female singers with each having time in the spotlight. When it came to the best-known material, Henley did not go through the motions.

With a plethora of well-known material to sing, "The Last Resort," a B-side single from 1976's "Hotel California," was about the most powerful song of the night drawing a well-deserved standing ovation.

About the only problem musically was that Henley could easily have pumped the musical well of "Cass County" far more than three songs. He eschewed "Take a Picture of This" and the upbeat and catchy "No, Thank You" for "That Old Flame," "Train in the Distance," a slow burner about growing up and playing on the train tracks, and "When I Stopped Dreaming."

The new material was performed well. No doubt about it, and one wished Henley would have gone to the well more often.

After declaring he would be "glad when this political circus is over," Henley did a winning take on the popular by Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Unexpected, but it made sense.

Henley would not be accused of being charismatic. He talks sufficiently to his fans. He thanks them often, but there's not a whole lot of connectedness with the crowd either. One suspected (except for mention of nearby Walden Woods, an environmental project that Henley has long been involved in) that Henley gives the same kind of talk every night to the crowd.

Bottom line is you get the sense that Henley would prefer singing songs than talking.

And much credit goes to Henley for having a length and breadth of career, songs and the ability to maintain his vocal chops. With maybe a bit of luck, that'll be the case tell hell freezes over.