A new era for the Forum in Inglewood begins Wednesday night when the Eagles play the first of six shows over the next 10 days. Calendar checks in with founding member, singer and songwriter Don Henley for his thoughts on the arena's return to action, the Eagles' touring legacy and various issues facing the band — and all musicians — in the digital age.
Before you step on stage to initiate this new era of the Forum, please share your impressions of the renovation.
The new owner has done an amazing job. No expense has been spared, no detail left unattended, both in the public area and backstage. The acoustics are superb, undoubtedly the best sound I've heard in any venue of this size anywhere in the world. Since the Forum is no longer a multipurpose building and is dedicated solely to music, the owner was able to customize the interior with concert production as the priority.
Most arenas are built for sporting events as their primary use and little or no thought is given to sound quality. But the acoustical engineering that has been done at the Forum is comprehensive — even the upholstery fabric on the seats is part of the solution. They've taken a cavernous arena and made it feel intimate. All of us in the band have great memories of concerts that we've experienced there, both as performers and as spectators, so naturally we're thrilled to see the place resurrected in such a thoughtful way.
Have you gotten to see the rooftop mock-up of the "Hotel California" LP?
Only in photographs that were emailed to me. The shots were taken from a helicopter. The pilot and the photography team had to get clearance from the FAA because the Forum is in the flight path for LAX. It was a difficult undertaking, but they did it. The whole thing is just amazing.
Will audiences be in for new Eagles music at the Forum show — or any time in the near future?
No and no.
What about a Don Henley album?
I recently completed a new solo album, but haven't been able to release it because the ongoing Eagles tour leaves me no time to promote it. I hope to get it out this fall.
A major concern in the concert business has been "What happens when the Eagles stop touring?" — a question that's also been posed of other veteran acts that generate top-grossing concert tours whenever they hit the road. But last year, for the first time, seven of the top 10 grossing tours were by relative newcomers — Beyonce, Pink, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, etc. What does that say to you about what's happening in music today?
These box office charts are relatively meaningless because they're computed based on the calendar year and some tours don't fit into that timetable. For example, our tour didn't begin until July of last year and we toured until Thanksgiving, then we took a break for the holidays. The tour commences again tonight, here in Los Angeles, and runs through mid-June. So our tour spans exactly half of two different years. In any case, the concert business seems to be healthy and there is room for acts from multiple generations, playing diverse styles of music. But it's reasonable to expect that someday, in the not-too-distant future, the "classic rock" generation of performers will cease touring. But not just yet — not while so many people still want to come to our shows and we're still making them happy.
As far as the record business goes, have you read Jaron Lanier's book "Who Owns the Future" and, if so, what do you think of his proposals for bringing fairness/equity to the digital age? Who do you see out there who's working with the digital distribution of music in ways that reward rather than exploit musicians and their music?
I haven't read it but I read his previous one and I really like how his thinking has evolved, particularly as it pertains to the techno-utopians and the damage they've done to our culture, including the arts — specifically music and film and the people who work in those fields. In the technocratic world of Google (which owns YouTube), my musical brethren and I are no longer artists; we're not creators — we are merely "content providers." Copyright and intellectual property mean nothing to the technocracy. They've built multi-billion-dollar, global empires on the backs of creative, working people who are uncompensated. They're wrecking entire industries.
The genie is so far out of the bottle that there's really no putting it back in. There might be a legislative fix, but there seems to be no political will. Google alone has about a dozen lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Google spent over $11 million last year on lobbying and over $18 million the previous year. They spread the money and the propaganda around like manna, employing their favorite buzz words like "innovation." Regulation, they say, will "stifle innovation," and the legislators all nod in agreement. It's an oligarchy, plain and simple. The arts and entertainment industry can't compete with that.
Your thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally inducting Linda Ronstadt this year?
Linda's induction was long overdue, as was Randy Newman's. But induction into the [hall of fame] is not always based on merit. It's based largely on the personal tastes and opinions of the nominating committee and there has often appeared to be a systematic bias against artists who hail from the Southwest and in favor of artists who originated in the Northeast. But none of us are losing any sleep over this. The bottom line is that ever since the [hall of fame] became a television show, it has lost a lot of credibility and support. Now, in order to accommodate the demands of television, the inclusion of "big names" is a must and, according to some insiders, that taints the process.
Back to the Eagles, how are you approaching these six performances — will the band be rejiggering the set list much from night to night, digging in to the deep tracks?
We will be adding a couple of songs that we haven't previously done on this tour. But, basically, the show will be the same every night. We subscribe to the old adage, "If it ain't broke don't fix it."
What was the best part of the shows you've done with Bernie Leadon back on stage?
I like the opening segment of the show where we re-create the simple rehearsal shack atmosphere of 1971, sitting around with just acoustic guitars, playing the early tunes. During that segment we play a song that Bernie co-wrote with the late Gene Clark, who was a member of the Byrds, and I am always reminded of what a skilled musician Bernie is.
Is there a difference when you play in Southern California versus other places the Eagles perform?
We have more guests backstage.
What has been the reaction from fans since the "History of the Eagles" documentary surfaced last year and gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the band?
There has been a major increase in ticket sales, but the affection and emotion coming from the fans has never changed. Their reaction is just as warm and enthusiastic as it ever was and it's a wondrous and humbling thing to be on the receiving end of that at every show.
The Eagles and JD & the Straight Shot
Where: The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood
When: 8 p.m. Wed., Fri., Sat. and Jan. 22, 24 and 25
Cost: $39.50 to $250
Information: http://www.ticketmaster.com or (800) 745-3000