Rock Hall of Famer Don Henley of the Eagles has been known to say whatever's on his mind.
In 1980, he famously proclaimed that the disbanding Eagles would get together "when hell freezes over." They reunited in 1994.
Last fall, Henley declared that the Eagles were over because of the death of Glenn Frey in January 2016. "I don't see how we could go out and play without the guy who started the band," Henley told the Washington Post. Next month, the Eagles will perform two high-buck stadium concerts, with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, Glenn's son, added to the lineup.
On Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, Henley addressed what was bugging him at the moment — the air conditioning, which had just been turned on midway through his two-hour concert.
"Would you rather be comfortable or hear me sing great?" asked the Texan, who had been red-faced and sweaty since the opening number.
The air conditioning won out — and, frankly, Henley sounded consistently better vocally for the rest of the performance. Earlier, his voice had sounded a little rough on a couple of tunes.
Still, Sunday's show was more fun — and satisfying — than the winning one Henley gave at the Minnesota State Fair 10 months earlier because he was looser physically and the repertoire was more appealing. This time he played more Eagles songs and fewer selections from his 2015 debut country album, "Cass County." At the fair, it seemed like "Cass County" was a focus. On Sunday, it was more of "by the way, I had this album two years ago."
The three "Cass County" pieces were alluring, especially the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming," a dreamy duet with backup vocalist Erica Swindell that was about as country as it gets, and "It Don't Matter to the Sun" (from Garth Brooks' Chris Gaines project), which was transformed into a lovely vocal ensemble exercise.
Henley was resourceful enough to rework some of the arrangements of Eagles favorites, partly to take advantage of his large band of 12 players and three backup singers. "Witchy Woman" was punctuated by R&B horns and female harmonies. "One of These Nights" featured seven-part harmony and Henley's falsetto cooing. There was a newfound quiver in his voice during "Peaceful Easy Feeling," which he'd dedicated to Frey, lead vocalist on the hit recording of the song.
Henley, who turns 70 next month, jumped up and down like a punk rocker to jump-start "Life in the Fast Lane," which evolved into a spirited race between guitarists. "Wasted Time" was smartly transformed into a fiddle-flavored duet with backup singer Lara Johnston, which gave new meaning to the song, especially as her alto contrasted with Henley's wistful tenor.
The once and future Eagle has assembled a top-notch band, featuring always-in-the-pocket drummer Scott Crago and masterful guitarist Steuart Smith, who's toured with the Eagles since 2001. Not obligated to replicate the sounds on record, Smith always added the right coloring, whether eerie twang on "Hotel California," keening loneliness on "The Boys of Summer" or the party-hearty slide on "All She Wants to Do Is Dance."
Henley showed equal enthusiasm for his solo material as he did for Eagles nuggets. Like Jack Morris pitching in the 10th inning of a World Series seventh game, he really poured himself into "The Boys of Summer."
Another treat for Henley, a long outspoken political progressive, was singing Tears for Fears' 1985 hit "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," which he said he's been performing on tour for the past couple of years as therapy. The 5,000 fans (about half as many as he drew to the State Fair last summer) rose to their feet to sing along with Henley, who was animated for the first time all night. In fact, he got downright hammy during this irresistible slice of pop cheese.
For a change, Henley used a playful but pointed song instead of his outspoken mouth to express what was on his mind.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719