Having the chance to see a rock icon perform outside of the usual festivals and enormo-domes is always a pleasure. And when that venue is as intimate and as sound-friendly as Austin’s 300-seat One World Theatre, it is truly something special.
Timothy B. Schmit, of Eagles and Poco fame, brought his solo act to Austin for the first of two sold-out shows on the latest leg of his on-going “Leap of Faith” tour – performances that he manages to sandwich between Eagles appearances.
After a short introduction by One World Executive Director Hartt Stearns, Schmit took the stage with his core four-piece band and launched into “One More Mile” off of 2008’s “Expando” album. It is a catchy tune with a lilting toe-tapping rhythm that featured some tasty slide guitar licks from Hank Linderman, Schmit’s longtime guitarist and collaborator.
Many of those attending were admittedly not familiar with Schmit’s solo material, yet his smooth tenor voice instantly drew the audience in with a familiar comfort. This is a good thing because this was not an Eagles or a Poco show. Schmit’s setlist drew primarily from his solo recordings.
After the song finished, Schmit greeted the audience and remarked on how cozy the theater was. And indeed it is. There is not really a bad seat in the place and the acoustics are fantastic. Being able to hear the richness of Schmit’s voice, especially in the lower registers, was simply beautiful. It is truly a listening room where the subtlety and expressiveness of every instrument could be heard. And his band of extremely accomplished musicians excelled in this environment.
He introduced the night’s special guest, John McFee of the Doobie Brothers – a friend from his time touring with Poco. McFee sat in for about half of the evening’s songs, alternating between pedal steel, violin, and guitar. It was a pleasant surprise and McFee’s playing fit in perfectly, weaving its way through and brilliantly complementing the band’s sonic tapestry.
The band played several more tunes including “Red Dirt Road” from “Leap of Faith.” The song refers to the beauty of Hawaii, where he has a home with his wife, which segued nicely with a song he wrote for her entitled “Ella Jean.” Schmit explained that he wrote the song when his wife went to Hawaii while he was in the studio, and how the two-week trip expanded to four. He called it “a sappy love song.” He went on to say, with a slight twinkle in his eye, that when he played it for her when she returned, “It got a very good reaction!”
This was followed with one of the evening’s highlights, “White Boy From Sacramento,” a “funky” tongue-in-cheek homage to Schmit’s youth growing up in the capital of the golden state. This song saw the appearance of a trio of black backup singers midway through who mockingly echoed the chorus back at Schmit. It was a fun interplay, as the ladies displayed exemplary synchronized girl group dance moves while adding a rich vocal bed for Schmit to sing over. “He’s just a white boy from Sacramento.” Indeed.
The addition of these ladies seemed to kick the act into high gear, infusing the musicians with a newfound energy. The band had grown from four in the beginning of the show to nine, with the inclusion of the ladies – Marlena Jeter, Lynne Fiddmont, and Mortonette Stephens – and Schmit’s Eagles guitar tech, Bobby Carlos. They joined bassist/keyboardist Chris Farmer, drummer Herman Matthews and the aforementioned Linderman and McFee. And they sounded great, tearing it up during “Downtime” and a rocking “Parachute” that featured some raucous dueling guitar solos between Linderman and McFee.
Midway through the set, the band members all left the stage, leaving Schmit alone under the spotlight. He accompanied himself with some beautiful acoustic guitar work, singing solo renditions of two songs from “Leap of Faith” – “All Those Faces” and “You’re So Wild.”
What followed was far and away the night’s emotional highpoint. Noting that’s it’s been almost two years since the passing of his old bandmate and friend, he wanted to do a song for him and for the audience. “Here’s to Glenn” he said. You could feel the emotion swell up in the room as he strummed the intro and started singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Many in the audience were compelled to sing along yet seemed to quiet down as abruptly as they began. People realized that in this intimate setting they could easily drown out Schmit’s own singing and that this moment was too special to miss. When he finished, he received a standing ovation that was just as much for Glenn Frey as it was for Schmit’s performance. It was a heartfelt and emotional tribute.
He performed solo for one more – a “lighter” selection from 1990’s “Tell me the Truth” album entitled “All I Want to Do” – before the band came back onstage. To the audience’s obvious delight, they performed a couple of Poco songs, “I Can See Everything” and “Keep on Tryin’” that bookended Schmit’s own “What I Should Do.” During “Keep On Tryin’,” the band gathered around the mics at the front of the stage, blending their voices in magnificent, beautiful harmony.
As the set drew to a close, Schmit told the story of a song he wrote with “these other two guys.” Although his memory of those days was a bit “fuzzy,” he remembers them looking for a song to highlight Schmit’s singing. He played them a piece of the next number, which became the first song recorded for the Eagles’ “The Long Run” album. He encouraged the audience to sing along, especially the ladies since its “a little bit high up there.” On Herman Matthew’s four-count, they launched into “I Can’t Tell You Why,” much to the audience’s delight.
Wanting to end on an “up note,” he closed the set with “A Good Day.” The band left the stage to a cheers and wild applause, which kept up until they returned for the encore.
Schmit returned and approached the mic with a humble “thank you” and exclaimed “We’re gonna do a couple more for ya . . . then I’m a gonna go rest up and do this again tomorrow night!” He introduced their next song, “I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore,” from the Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden” album, a song written by Paul Carrack. He sang a few bars of Squeeze’s “Tempted” and Ace’s “How Long” as he explained who Carrack is. (and did a fine job with both!) before kicking into “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore.” The song was taken to another level with the superb backing vocals of Jeter, Fiddmont, and Stephens.
For the final song, the band once again left the stage, this time Hank Linderman stayed and accompanied Schmit on a beautifully sparse version of “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”
As I said in my opening paragraph, to see a performance like this, in such a personal and intimate setting, is something truly special. Although many in the audience were admittedly not familiar with Schmit’s solo material, it didn’t matter. This was quality live music performed by an extremely talented band. And the lead singer wasn’t too shabby either.
TIMOTHY B. SCHMIT PHOTO GALLERY
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