Over the weekend I had the opportunity to check out a show at Huntington Bank Pavillion on Chicago’s Northerly Island. Having never taken pictures there, I jumped at the chance to shoot the opening act for Don Henley’s show, JD & The Straight Shot. The weather turned south after the opening set, and many people took to Facebook to knock JD for even taking the stage, as if the opening band has any say in such things. Don Henley ended up playing from 10:15 to 11:30-I was home watching Friends and editing photos by that time (90 minute delays really aren’t my thing, especially when it means standing in the rain).
So I missed out on seeing the former Eagle, but I did get to see another person who has been a big part of my life over the past 18 years as the JD in JD & The Straight Shot stands for James Dolan. As a Knicks fan, I had a lot of conflicting feelings going into the concert about separating my great disappointment as a basketball lover and my photographic assignment. As it turns out, once the music started I didn’t really even think about the other stuff.
Dolan has done exactly what I would do if I had a lot of money and a desire to make music. He’s surrounded himself with musicians that are supremely talented at everything they attempt. He’s got Shawn Pelton on drums. If you recognize that name it’s because you see it in the credits of Saturday Night Live, where he’s been drumming in the band since 1992. Erin Slaver is a brilliant violinist/singer who’s worked with a wide range of artists, including Rod Stewart and John Legend. Marc Copley played guitar with BB King and Roseanne Cash. Bassist Byron House, the eldest member of the band, played with Robert Plant on the Band Of Joy album, as well as collaborations with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.
What I’m saying is, there’s a lot of talent on the stage. Call it a vanity project if you want, but Dolan’s has built a strong supporting cast and has been putting out albums and playing shows since 2000 (granted a lot of those venues are owned by his company). They play old-school rock and roll with a lot of blues and soul influence. They covered Little Feat’s “Let It Roll,” and to my shock a cover of “Nature’s Way” by Spirit.
Dolan doesn’t shy away from the mic at any time. He was actually a bit funnier than I thought he would be. At one point they were getting ready to play a song and he said “We get a lot of songs in movies and tv. This one is from a movie called Jane Got A Gun. Anyone see that?” *CRICKETS* “Well, it should be on Lifetime soon so keep an eye out for it.” I found that hilarious-I remember when that Natalie Portman movie was going through distribution hell a couple years ago and it finally came out last year. No one saw it.
As far as the experience goes, I thought it was cool. They’re not reinventing the wheel here, and I think Dolan knows that as a singer he’s not Sinatra. That said, I’d rather see a band that looks like they’re having fun and enjoying playing music than a band of dour dudes who would rather be anywhere else. The mood was light and breezy, they cranked through seven or eight tunes pretty quickly, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy the show. I even talked to a couple afterward who were asking me if I knew the band because they were really digging it.