With some time to myself today it seemed the perfect moment to actually sit down and write about the exceptional concert I saw in Sydney last Friday night. No, not Adele. You wouldn’t know it judging by all the media hype, but Sydney actually welcomed two more international stars that night: Jewel and Don Henley.
As a woman of a certain age, I was pretty excited about seeing folk songbird live. Sadly a dinner that ran overtime and some unexpectedly long lines outside the new ICC Sydney Theatre meant we were a little late, but what I caught was just what I’d hoped it would be. Just Jewel, who looks like she hasn’t aged a day since the ‘90s, her acoustic guitar, and that sublime voice of hers. I loved hearing hits from Pieces of You as stripped back as they were on that original album. “Foolish Games” had me welling up. I also developed a new appreciation for “Intuition,” a song I’d always hated because it seemed so overproduced. The acoustic mode really let its cutting lyrics shine. A special moment between Jewel and her young son, dueting on a song sung for generations in her family, tugged at the heart strings. She really made the most of her all-too-brief time on stage, sharing stories and songs with such warmth. There was even yodelling! I really hope to see her back in Australia soon, because she was superb.
After seeing The Eagles a couple of times before Glenn Frey’s untimely death, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Don’s solo show. I knew the songs would be good, but I wondered whether the Eagles’ tracks would seem a little lacking without the other Eagles voices in the mix. But Don knows what he’s doing. He assembled one of the tightest bands I’ve seen in some time, including three superb backup singers my husband recognised from The Voice US. He opened with a song from her latest album Cass County, “Seven Bridges Road,” a stripped back country number which really showcased the vocal talents of all on stage.
While this show was about touring Cass County, Don knows what fans want to hear. He promised us he’d do the occasional song for him, but plenty of songs for us, and he did. The set drew heavily from his days with The Eagles; wisely he stuck to those tracks where he originally sang lead vocals, ensuring they sounded just right to our ears. I was especially thrilled to hear “The Last Resort,” a song that Don admitted he hadn’t played for decades before embarking on these solo shows. Tracks from the ‘80s were also celebrated. Despite their advancing years they sounded so fresh, especially “The End of the Innocence” with its lyrics so resonant in the time of Trump. There were surprises too; I’m not sure anyone expected Don Henley to launch into “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
It took until the second encore for Don to address the elephant in the room and chat about Glenn Frey, his longtime collaborator who we so sadly lost last year. He told us how he missed him before launching into two of the songs they penned together: “Wasted Time” and “Desperado.” Such painful songs made more poignant under the circumstances. We took a moment, remembered, and then danced. It’s what Glenn would have wanted I think. “All She Wants to Do is Dance” was the perfect closer for Don Henley’s show, a performance that was about nostalgia but also celebrating an artist that continues to be at the top of his game.