Thirty-six antique radios hung above the Bowl stage on the evening of Wednesday, October 7, as Don Henley performed in support of his latest record Cass County. Just released in September 25, Henley’s fifth solo studio album has already leapt to the top of the Country Albums Chart.
During the show, I couldn’t help but wonder about the inspiration behind the decor. Perhaps these radios were meant to signify Henley’s appreciation for the past. During his show he honored fellow historical artists like Steve Young, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and Jay Hawkins with the opener “Seven Bridges Road,” new songs “The Cost of Living” and “When I Stop Dreaming,” and a cover of “I Put a Spell on You.” His ensemble reinvigorated the old-timey spirit while playing treasured folk instruments like the mandolin, harmonica, slide guitar, and violin.
Maybe, the radios wielded a mystical power capable of transporting the band and audience through time. The intimate choral setting of “Bramble Rose” and classic country apparel of Henley’s bandmates appropriately exhibited a late 19th century Wild Western character, while the encore opener “The Boys of Summer” and cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” brought us forward to the exhilarating 1980s.
It’s possible that the radios represented Henley’s fond memories of innocent youth. Late in the evening he reminisced about playing around train tracks at his grandmother’s house as a child before launching into “Train in the Distance” during the encore. The duet on “That Old Flame” spoke to the perils of reaching out to a long lost lover of years past, and in “The End of the Innocence” he practically begged to be taken back to the days of freedom and no responsibility.
And yet again, perhaps the antique radios were meant to signify nothing at all, and hung instead as a token of pure nostalgia. Either way, Henley’s Bowl performance reconfirmed him as a boundless artist, capable of engaging audiences regardless of their generation. His musical themes are universally relatable, and his solo performances offer fresh insight into his sapient mind.