A few thoughts on J.D. Souther’s performance Monday at the Dakota:
* Since he’s mostly known as a behind-the-scenes guy who wrote hits for the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt, I was hoping for more stories behind the songs. He wasn’t much of talker in his return to the Dakota, though he clearly had an easy sense of humor and did call Ronstadt “the voice of our generation” (though he told no tales about her).
* His grainy voice has weathered, with an inability to find his high notes (though he improved as the night went on). Let’s call it a songwriter’s voice. In your head, you could hear either Don Henley or Jackson Browne singing just about whatever song Souther was offering.
* He didn’t mention Nashville — either the city where he has lived for 10 years or the eponymous TV series on which he has a recurring role.
* Backed by a pianist and upright bassist, Souther did “Faithless Love,” the Ronstadt classic, and such Eagles co-writes as “New Kid in Town” and “The Sad Cafe.” But he didn’t do “Best of My Love,” “Heartache Tonight,” “Prisoner in Disguise” or “Her Town Too” (his James Taylor hit). Of course, he did his only solo hit, “You’re Only Lonely” — as well as some splendid tunes from his solo recordings, including “Silver Blue” and “I’ll Be Here at Closing Time,” which have a distinctive 1970s L.A. soft-rock sound. Loved the jaunty boardwalk pop-meets-Mexican stroll of “Banging My Head Against the Moon.”
* Souther offered a handful of standards, including “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ,” that show he’s paid attention to Tony Bennett’s phrasing.
* The preponderance of standards and the length of the show — 100 minutes — were probably due to guest saxophonist Evan Francis, whom Souther discovered practicing in the Minneapolis hotel room next to him. Souther phoned him, introduced himself and invited Francis — who is in town for Michael Buble’s concert Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul (Buble is off appearing on "The View") — to join him at the Dakota. Francis winged it with the band for 40 minutes, adding an essential dimension and inspiring Souther on such numbers as “Cry Me a River,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and even “You’re Only Lonely.”