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Don Henley/Phil Collins salute leaves crowd begging for more k
Tuesday, 04 July 2017 09:50
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HENDERSONVILLE —  The tribute concert, “The Music of Don Henley and Phil Collins,” proved to be a crowd-pleaser during the June 3 performance at Flat Rock Playhouse’s downtown Hendersonville stage.

“Easy Lover,” the regular show’s fiery finale, had the audience of — maybe — 200 on its feet, requesting an encore for the production that ran June 1-11. (The venue has a seating capacity of 250.)

The band made motions to leave the stage, but, as the audience cheered wildly, its members stood still, smiling and absorbing the adulation.

After a pause, the band shifted its musical motor into overdrive to perform the heartfelt ballad, “Desperado,” a 1973 hit by the Eagles. It was the first song that Henley and Glenn Frey had written together. As a duo, they went on to write many other major songs for The Eagles. 

“Desperado” was the only Eagles’ song played during the tribute show. The other Henley songs performed in the show were from his solo career after leaving the Eagles.

As “Desperado” wound to a close, the crowd — once again — stood, cheered and clapped en masse and was rewarded with Collins’ version of The Supremes’ up-tempo classic, “You Can’t Hurry Love.” (The second encore song was unusual, in that FRP tribute bands typically play just one encore song.)

The crowd remained standing throughout the performance of the Motown classic, many of them swaying to the bouncy music, while roughly 20 people seized the opportunity to rush from their seats to the open area in front of the band, where they danced joyously. 

When “You Can’t Hurry Love” ended, the crowd applauded and some pleaded for yet another encore, but the house lights were turned up, the band bowed in unison, thanked the audience for its support and, this time, left the stage.

Henley and Collins, both of whom are dynamic drummers as well as stellar singers-songerwriters, were billed by FRP in a press release as “1970s’ rock legends.”

Henley “is most known for his time as the lead vocalist for The Eagles, but has worked with all many of musicians, including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks, along with having his own successful solo career,” FRP stated. “He’s been nominated for nearly 20 Grammy Awards and has won three including Best Rock Male Vocalist for ‘Dirty Laundry’ and ‘The End of the Innocence.’

“Phil Collins began as the drummer for Genesis and stepped up as the lead vocalist when Peter Gabriel left the band. Collins then went solo and has received numerous awards, including seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and two Golden Globes,” FRP noted.

The show’s high-octane band included Dustin Brayley, lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Aaron LaVigne, lead vocals and drums; Will Moss, synthesizer and back-up vocals; Bill Altman, guitar; Ryan Guerra, bass; and Paul Babelay, drums. Moss also served as music director — a job in which he excelled — for the show.

Both Brayley and LaVigne were spot-on with the lead vocals — and the harmonies by those two and others in the band were, at times, celestial. Also impressive was the musicianship of the band members.

Others contributing to the top-notch show were Adam Goodrum, production manager; C.J Barnwell, lighting designer; and Kurt Conway, sound designer.

While the show was stellar, a few minor adjustments could have made it even better. For instance, someone overseeing the concert either should have had Brayley and LaVigne, who served as emcees, practice their jokes and stories in rehearsal. Instead, some of the jokes fell embarrassingly flat, especially about wearing “man buns.” And some stories they told were imprecise or confusing.

In addition, it would have been better if they had told a bit more about Henley and Collins, so that audience members would leave knowing. Instead, they told too much about themselves and the tribute band and not enough about those they were saluting.

Other areas for improvement would be to work more on the choreography, as the two lead singers seemed to just wing it, sometimes awkwardly, as they performed — side-by-side — center-stage. For instance, on one song they each stood and snapped their fingers to the music — and it could have been choreographed for maximum impact, if they had stood together and snapped together . 

Also, at least three of the band members wore black pants and shirts, while two wore light-color clothes. The effect was that it must have been an oversight, as it would have looked snappier for all of the band members to wear black.

The show opened with a definitive bang with two Collins’ hits, “In the Air Tonight,” followed by “Two Hearts.” The crowd was fired up from the beginning and clapped and cheered enthusiastically after virtually every song in the show.

On “In the Air Tonight,” the effect was stunning as co-lead vocalists Brayley and LaVigne sang the first part of the song, with electronic drum programmed in, and then LaVigne suddenly dramatically dashing back to the drums and putting down a mighty beat that could have propelled him and his band into the stratosphere. The crowd cheered.

Next, the band performed Henley’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” Collins’ “One More Night” and then two Henley hits — “The Last Worthless Evening” and “The End of Innocence.”

At that point, the tribute group played the band Genesis’ “That’s All” to honor Collins’ years with the Genesis, prior to going solo. The 45-minute first set ended on a high note with Collins’ “Sussodio.”

Following an 18-minute break, the band launched into its second and final set with Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” followed by three Collins’ songs — “Another Day in Paradise,” “A Groovy Kind of Love” and “Against All Odds” — and two Henley songs — “The Heart of the Matter” and “Easy Lover.”

Of the aforementioned songs, especially memorable was LaVigne’s story preceding “The Last Worthless Evening,” when he told about Henley spotting gorgeous actress Michelle Pheiffer across the room at a party. Henley felt intimidated by the actress’ beauty, LaVigne said, but decided to approach her anyway. Walking up to Pheiffer, Henley could not think of anything to say, so he asked her if she had a cigarette. Wordlessly, Pheiffer flicked the cigarette butt in her hand at him and walked away. According to LaVigne’s story, actor Jack Nickolson, who was standing nearby and saw the action, mumbled, “Way to go, Henley!”

Perhaps the most hauntingly pretty song of the night was Collins’ version of “A Groovy Kind of Love.”

For its next Music on the Rock tribute concert, Aug. 3-13, the playhouse will feature “Motown Summer Nights.”

Other upcoming tribute shows include “The Music of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross,” Sept. 28-Oct. 8; and “August 1969: The Women of Woodstock,” Oct. 26-Nov. 4.



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