Eagles Bassist Timothy B. Schmit Wraps Up Tour With First-Class Show in Ridgefield
From the moment Timothy B. Schmit took the stage, it was clear that this was going to be a special performance. It was the last of 17 solo dates booked for the Spring leg of the Leap of Faith tour, which commenced Easter Sunday at City Winery in Chicago and continued eastward, culminating at The Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Opening with the lead track from his 2009 release, Expando, Schmit was in fine voice and his band was flawless. It shouldn't come as a surprise really -- each of his band members are highly talented in their own right, and have been performing together for nearly 10 years. Sure, there have been breaks during that time while Schmit was busy with "that other band" (as he often says, when referring to the Eagles), but there is just something magical about this group of musicians that is evident from the moment they take the stage. They actually like each other. And they love what they are doing. They are a family, and it was beautiful to watch them enjoying their time together.
Schmit greeted the audience with a warm "Happy Mother's Day" for all of the mothers in attendance, then jovially wished everyone else in crowd a Happy Mother's Day, too. He then confirmed what was already quite obvious; he and the band were going to miss the kinship they had been sharing while on the road these past few weeks. "This is sort of a melancholic night for us," he said, explaining how much they enjoy performing together, and how they will miss it. The band nodded in agreement as he spoke, and you could feel the energy in the room begin to build -- it suddenly became even stronger; in a happy, positive way. His words, coupled with the body language of the band, seemed to form an instant connection with the audience. We were the lucky ones, invited to a private party. Yes, it was a "farewell" party of sorts -- which can sometimes be sad -- but we were going to make it a good one, a fun one; we were going to make it a night to remember. And with that, Schmit launched into the first track on his Leap of Faith album, "My Hat."
One of the many highlights of the night was the autobiographical "White Boy From Sacramento," which includes vignettes from his childhood and teenage years growing up in the Golden State's capital. He sings about hearing Pat Boone on the radio, watching I Love Lucy on TV, doing the stroll and the limbo, wearing Jade East, and getting his flattop cut at the barber -- all things that he actually did. Then, about midway through the song, three female vocalists (who happen to be black) prance up onstage and join him on backing vocals. They point at him while singing the refrain, "He's just a white boy from Sacramento" and there's some playful back-and-forth as the song continues. It's all in good fun, of course. In an earlier interview, Schmit recalled how he went about putting the song together, "I said to myself, I have to find some black girls to sing on this, I just do. I knew the parts in my head, and I got ahold of one of the girls, Marlena, through a producer friend. I talked to her on the phone and she said she would put together two more girls to come and sing, and I said "I have to tell you the title and subject matter of the song, I just have to make sure you're cool with it." And she said "Oh yeah, no problem, we'll be there." So they showed up, I taught them what was in my head, and they exceeded my expectations. It was a lot of fun, and I think that's why it comes off that way." In addition to being good sports and having fun, these ladies are serious vocalists. Marlena Jeter, Lynne Fiddmont, and Mortonette Stephens have sung with such luminaries as Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Stevie Wonder -- just to name a few. They have incredible voices, and when all three sing together it's stunningly beautiful.
After a rockin' performance of "Parachute," from the Expando album, Schmit introduced the band. Again, the bond within this band was palpable. Before he started the introductions, he thoughtfully shared how much he enjoys not only performing with them, but just being around them -- being together. He used the word "family," and it fit. Perfectly. You could see it -- and you could feel it. He turned to face the musicians standing to his left, his right, and behind him... and he thanked them. Not a quick "thanks"... but a sincere conveyance of the deep appreciation he has for each one of them. Applause filled the room. Schmit then introduced each member of the crew, citing their role and giving them well-deserved accolades. It wasn't just a thank you for that night at The Ridgefield Playhouse, it was a thank you for the entire tour, and it was genuine. Then it was time to introduce the "family members" who were onstage; Chris Farmer, Herman Matthews, Bobby Carlos, Marlena Jeter, Lynne Fiddmont, Mortonette Stephens, and Hank Linderman. (see earlier review for more detailed info on each band member). Following the introductions, the band left the stage and Schmit stood alone in the spotlight with an acoustic guitar.
His solo set began with a pair of songs from his Leap of Faith album, "All Those Faces" (during which he also played harmonica) and "You're So Wild." Then he dedicated a song to Glenn. Just Glenn. Everyone knew who he was referring to. He said "This is a song that Glenn sang, and I would sing background vocals. I'm gonna sing it for you tonight," and he began the familiar opening chords of "Peaceful Easy Feeling," The audience began to applaud in acknowledgement, then quickly stopped out of courtesy -- to allow him to gently and quietly sing his friend's song. You could hear a pin drop. It was almost as if the entire audience was holding their breath. When he finished, everyone stood, and applauded for what seemed like several minutes. It was an emotional, heartwarming moment. After a pause, Schmit kept things rolling along with a perfect segue of "Let's lighten things up a bit!" and played "All I Want To Do" from one of his earlier solo albums, Tell Me The Truth.
At the conclusion of his solo set, Schmit brought back the band with a lighthearted "Let's round up the troops." As they were making their way back to their positions onstage, Schmit said, "I wonder that they do while I'm out here by myself"... to which one of the band members answered "Poker!" There were smiles all around -- another reminder of how close they have all become. Once everyone was ready, he announced, "We're gonna do a Poco song," and they treated the crowd to a captivating version of "I Can See Everything."
Another highlight was "Keep On Tryin" with the band gathered at the front of the stage, sharing microphones. The blend of vocal harmonies was magnificent.
The night seemed to fly by, with one spectacular song after another. Everyone was giving it their "all"... savoring each moment, knowing that they were nearing the end of the show (and ultimately, the end of the Spring tour). The last couple songs in the main set were the Eagles' hit "I Can't Tell You Why" and another of Schmit's solo songs from the Expando album, "A Good Day." They left the stage to a standing ovation with resounding applause that matched the positive energy that had been present in the room all evening; sincere gratitude, and true appreciation. The performance that night was solid, and the crowd recognized it and gave it right back, returning the sentiment by keeping the applause going until the band returned to the stage.
With a humble "thank you," Schmit introduced the next song - "I Don't Want To Hear Any More" - from the Eagles' Long Road Out of Eden, adding that this would be their own arrangement of that song. The glorious backing vocals of Jeter, Fiddmont, and Stephens brought it to a whole new level - absolutely spectacular. And then, they reached the moment of the night where there was only one song remaining -- "Love Will Keep Us Alive" -- which Schmit performs almost a capella, accompanied only by Linderman on acoustic guitar. At previous shows, this was the point in the evening where the rest of the band would exit the stage for the final time. As they started to make their way off the stage, Schmit motioned for them to come forward instead, and join him. It appeared that this wasn't necessarily planned in advance -- as they seemed to hesitate slightly at first, not entirely sure what to do. And then it all made sense; it was the last night of the tour, and Schmit wanted everyone to gather center stage for one last group bow. And so they did. They walked to the middle of the stage and stood with their arms around each other -- looking out at the crowd -- radiant smiles beaming from their faces. Yes, they are a family... no doubt about it. And everyone at The Ridgefield Playhouse will be looking forward to the next "family gathering."
One More Mile
Red Dirt Road
White Boy From Sacramento
All Those Faces
You're So Wild
Peaceful Easy Feeling
All I Want To Do
I Can See Everything
What I Should Do
Keep On Tryin'
I Can't Tell You Why
A Good Day
I Don't Want To Hear Any More
Love Will Keep Us Alive
For additional information on Timothy B. Schmit, visit www.timothybschmit.com