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THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for July 23, 2016
Don Henley's "Goddamn" Problem.
Henley t-shirts for sale last night at the Greek. [photo by Paul Iorio]
Don Henley blew his top last night.
"If you want rock 'n' roll, you're gonna have to shut up and wait for it," he said angrily to a fan who'd shouted something like "rock 'n' roll!" after Henley unleashed a string of mellow numbers, including a Garth Brooks tune, mid-set on July 23rd.
The crowd at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California, cheered and Henley made good on his promise with a sizzling second half.
But what was with his self-censorship on encore "Life in the Fast Lane" where he omitted the word "god" from the line "We've been up and down this highway, haven't seen a goddamn thing"?
On playback of my recording of the show, I can hear that he deliberately omits the word "god," leaving a gap and even throwing off the rhythm of the line. He didn't even bother to substitute a slug syllable (like "hot damn thing"). He clearly censored himself -- and took part of the punch out of a great rocker.
Has Henley gone prissy in his old age? Is he growing more Texas and less L.A. with the years?
After the show, I did a bit of research and found that the "goddamn" controversy dates back to 2009, when an Alabama classic rock radio station deleted the word "god" from the song.
The response of the Eagles' Don Felder? "There are people who have extreme religious beliefs that would find it offensive. I can understand why they wouldn't like to hear it," Felder told The Birmingham Weekly, according to Rolling Stone in '09.
Evidently, Henley is quite OK with the censorship of his music by Bible belt broadcasters -- and is even helping them in their holy mission to cleanse the airwaves. (For the record, "goddamn" is not one of the words prohibited by the FCC," as RS noted.)
Despite that off-key moment, the two-and-a-half hour show was mostly enjoyable.
The show-stopper was "The Last Resort," which he knocked out of the park and into the hills above the open-air theater, where I heard the show. Performed only a handful of times in the U.S. by him and the Eagles since its release 40 years ago, the song, in '16, has added resonance in the wake of the refugee crisis and sounds something like the Eagles' crowning masterpiece. (Almost a perfect song, in my view, except for that unfortunate shift in focus to an ecology rant near the end.)
"The Boys of Summer" was another highlight, much more effective than one might expect. And "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" and "How Bad Do you Want It" were lots of fun and had people dancing (even in the hills above the theater, where I heard the concert (but had limited sightlines)).
And the set-closer was touching: "This one's for Glenn," he said, as the piano intro to "Desperado" rang out, referring to his band mate Glenn Frey, who died in January. (Though, frankly, I can't hear it anymore without thinking of that hilarious "Seinfeld" episode!)
Then there were the words that struck fear in the hearts of thousands of fans: "Here's another track from 'Cass County'" -- "Cass County" being his latest album of very average songs.
All told, a solid gig -- despite dead patches and that unnecessary self-censorship.
The crowd at the not-quite-sold-out Henley show last night. [photo by Paul Iorio]