Written by Kevin Black
ImageA Headliner Opening for a Headliner Opening for a Headliner… Third-on-the-bill is typically reserved for “up and coming” acts that have a song on the chart’s Top 100, or for a forgotten rocker that you thought might have played with someone famous for a few years and now desperately needs to trade in the spandex for some Dockers. “But let me tell you, I’ve got some news for you…”

Listening to Don Felder stay true to every note– vocally and musically – I could feel the Eagles’ presence. That’s probably because Felder wrote and arranged songs with Henley, Frey and Schmit from 1974 through 2000, with the exception of some downtime due to the breakup of the band. With an unusual calm and cool sense, Felder appeared at peace with himself.

When the show kicked off with “Take It Easy,” the crowd did just the opposite– kicking back was not an option! Rising up as if it were the “National Anthem,” the crowd appeared to have come to see Don Felder.

ImageThen the unexpected happened– Don made the announcement that he was bringing up an old friend to help with a song. Suddenly, a stagehand unites Felder with his 6-string/12-string, double-neck Gibson EDS-1265, which could only mean one thing– “Hotel California!” The curiosity reverberated throughout the Pavilion, “WHO CAN IT BE?” The next person you saw enter the stage was Styx member Tommy Shaw. The crowd erupted as if the Texans had just won the Super Bowl! Felder’s entire performance had me wondering, “Why isn’t THIS guy the headliner?!”

What followed next was nothing short of the intricate workings of the inside of a Swiss watch. Seventeen stagehands removed the first of three layers of band equipment, transforming the stage into another rock backdrop. Within 20 minutes, the lights go down, the band emerges and BAM! “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” followed by “Cold as Ice.” The whole time I’m thinking, “Holy Cow! THESE guys should be the headliners!”

All the while, lead singer Kelly Hansen takes full advantage of the spacious stage, absolutely rockin’ The Woodlands Pavilion. After slowing down the tempo with “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” Hansen invites Foreigner’s founder, writer and guitarist Mick Jones, to join in. ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY FOR THE TEXANS! Now loaded with Mick Jones, Kelly Hansen and multitalented sax man Tom Gimble, the rest is history!

(By the way, did you notice I didn’t mention what’s-his-name, um, um… you know… Oh yeah, Lou Gramm. I may be “booed” for this one, but I didn’t miss him. At this point, I’m totally musically satisfied.)

ImageOMG! At first I thought it was just an illusion– until I realized it was “The Grand Illusion.” Before I could get my footing, they hit us with “Too Much Time on My Hands” and it was then I knew why Styx was THE headliner. Multiple lead vocals, two of the best guitarists still rockin’– flavored with keyboards, synthesizer and a stage full of harmony—collectively, Tommy Shaw, James “J Y” Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillip managed to transport everyone to a magical, mystical, musical place. I was looking for the wizard behind the curtain when he was right in front of me the whole time. Every member knew every other member’s every move.

Like I said, “A Headliner Opening for a Headliner Opening for a Headliner.”

I applaud all that made this rock-n-roll evening possible. I have been a professional musician for three-and-a-half decades; this concert made me ask myself, “What the hell am I doing in country music?!” I now know I’m a rocker at heart.

Until next time… KB