Don Henley Brings Cass County Tour to Nashville
Don Henley's concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on Sunday night (Oct. 18) was the intersection of one the greatest bodies of work in American music and one of the most hallowed venues in the country.
Henley performed at the Mother Church of Country Music as part of the tour to promote his most recent album, Cass County, which opened at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart when it debuted in September. The album features a mix of country classics along with new country songs Henley wrote or co-wrote, and also features a number of guest appearances from artists including Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Mick Jagger, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Dolly Parton.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter acknowledged how rare it is for an artist of his vintage — Henley is 68 — to achieve that kind of success in today's market, especially with songs of such mature subject matter, as Cass County deals with larger themes of the circular nature of life and grappling with the changes that come with aging.
"Miracles do still happen," Henley pointed out dryly Sunday night.
The Eagles singer, drummer and founding member opened the show with the only nod to the group that he gave fans during the course of the evening, enlisting his very talented backing vocalists for a stellar version of "Seven Bridges Road" that got the performance off to a rousing start. He drew heavily from the new album during the show, offering up "Take a Picture of This," "No, Thank You," "Praying for Rain," "That Old Flame," "She Sang Hymns Out of Tune," "Words Can Break Your Heart," "When I Stop Dreaming" and more over the course of two hours.
Henley also interspersed solo classics including "Heart of the Matter," "End of the Innocence," "New York Minute," "Dirty Laundry," "Last Worthless Evening" and "The Boys of Summer," and also covering "I Put a Spell on You" and, most unexpectedly, Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" before getting the fans back on their feet for the closing song, "All She Wants to Do Is Dance."
Henley still has the golden voice that has powered the success of both the Eagles and his solo career, and he has assembled a band that is more than capable of bringing a diverse setlist to life. While one might have expected a number of guest stars from the record to appear onstage, Henley chose instead to give parts originally sung by Yearwood, McBride and Parton to his enormously talented backing vocalists, who proved equal to the task of re-creating those parts live. Together, he and his band reminded Nashville fans why he has maintained a reputation for high quality productions, delivering carefully arranged and well-thought-out versions of his songs, while Henley also seemed more relaxed and humorous than in years past, setting up the songs with a deadpan wit that was very entertaining.
Overall, it's a show that provides, song for song, one of the most diverse setlists of any tour currently on the road, varying up the moods and pacing while showing off some of the better-written songs of any contemporary American music catalog in spectacularly high quality renditions that are sure to please any fan of Henley's past work, and maybe even win a few new converts.
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