‘The passage back to the place I was before’

If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know that moment when the folks up on stage hit the first few notes of one of their bigger songs … suddenly, the crowd swells and rises to its feet, knowing what’s coming.

From the front row on the floor, to the very back row of the upper deck, thousands of people are ready to sing along.

It’s a hair-raising moment. The goose bumps tighten. A chill runs up your spine.

Through my 96 concerts, it’s a moment that has hit me countless times and it never gets old.

On Saturday night, though, I experienced a vastly different emotion … one that totally caught me off guard.

I attended Don Henley’s concert at Mohegan Sun Arena — “the best show of the year,” I called it — and for two hours Henley intermixed his vast work as a solo artist with the hit songs he co-wrote for the band the Eagles.

During the second song of his encore came the familiar intro to the Eagles’ legendary hit song “Hotel California.”

The crowd did as expected … it’s what crowds do.

My reaction, though, was different this time around.

Sure, the goose bumps were there. The chills. The hair of arms stood at attention. But there was also a catch in my throat. And I felt my eyes start to water slightly.

Then Henley began to sing …

“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair; Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air …”

Where did the emotion come from?

That’s easy.

The ghosts.

“Hotel California” is one of those songs that immediately takes me back to a time and a place, and gets me dancing with my one of the ghosts of my past.

A girl. The truest and purest of loves I’ve ever felt in my life and I was, what? 16?

But it was more than that, as well.

It was hearing Henley sing it live and in person from my seat in Section 15, Row G, Seat 1, and the realization that I should have heard it before, done by the Eagles.

I guess it was also the emotion of regret.

Twice, I had the chance to see the Eagles live.  Twice, I let both shows pass to do other things, with the thought I’d catch them next time.

Then, suddenly, in January, Glenn Frey passed away.

The Eagles — with apologies to Don Felder, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner, not to mention Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit — are … well, were Frey and Henley. They are … well, were the heart and soul of the band and without one of them there is no Eagles.

And, now, I’ll never get to see them play.

So hearing Henley do that song — and Henley has one of the rocks most recognizable voices — struck a variety of nerves with me. The emotion of my response is what surprised me.

The Eagles were one of the big musical voices of my youth. The middle school years. My high school years.

Their songs bring back a lot of ghosts. As such, many were sung by Henley’s voice.

And there I was in a sold-out Mohegan Sun Arena, surrounded by 9,000 others, only I wasn’t.

It was just me and my ghosts and I let the emotion overcome me for a few moments.

That’s the power of music.

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