About 20 years ago, 5 teenage boys (including myself) took the stage at the South Junior High School talent show. I was the drummer/backup singer, and was about to make my first public performance. We had been rehearsing “Hotel California” for several weeks and were eager to perform. In the end, our lead vocalist sang with a husky baritone that sounded more like James Hetfield than Don Henley, and I definitely ended the song with a Mike Portnoy-esque double bass blast for the last four measures, which definitely turned some heads (and not in a good way).
If you’re a fan of classic rock at all, the music of The Eagles is woven into your DNA, whether you’re aware of it or not. I have so many fond memories with their music, whether it was singing “Tequila Sunrise” to a charming crowd in a barn jamboree in Marion County, Kentucky, or harmonizing to Eagles tunes with my dad and siblings. I wore out their 1994 live release, Hell Freezes Over. There is a reason why they are called one of the great American bands. Their songs are timeless, forever woven into the fabric of rock and roll history.
20 years later, I had the opportunity to review their show at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. The show was one of the biggest concert events we’ve had in Lexington in a long while. As soon as the lights came up, the crowd was with album-quality harmonies, and the band opened with their classic, harmony laden cover of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road”. This would kick off a night full of incredible harmonies and solid vocal and musical performances. With many of the bands from the 60s and 70s, one must taper expectations in regards to vocal performances due to range and tone loss, but the vocals were absolutely on point with this lineup. The Eagles were always special in this regard, in that the band consisted of several singers that had lead-singer-level quality voices that took turns with each song. But their harmonies were impressive and strong, and for the most part, didn’t show much indication of wear.
Just like on the Hell Freezes Over tour, each band member took a little time to chat with the audience, and played “their” trademark songs. Timothy Schmidt sang his most popular ballads, “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive”, though with a noticeable strain on the first. This could be due to the fact that he had to be seated for an injury, but he performed admirably, regardless, as those songs are not easy to sing. Joe Walsh played several of his own songs (“In the City” and “Rocky Mountain Way” were my personal highlights) with his trademark boisterousness and sanguine personality overflowing throughout the concert. Vince Gill, a star in his own right, was a tremendous asset to the live band, humbly providing lead and backup vocals throughout the night. I was surprised that Don Henley took a backseat at this concert, opting not to perform his own solo songs. I would have loved to hear “New York Minute” or “Dirty Laundry”, but I respect his choice to stand back and let the other band members shine.
One of the highlights of this show was seeing Glenn Frey’s 24 year old son, Deacon, fill in for his late father. Though Glenn’s absence was once thought to be the swan song of the band, Deacon’s inclusion and performance paid fitting tribute and made a case for continued relevance. Deacon introduced one of Glenn Frey’s most popular tracks, (I believe it was “Peaceful Easy Feeling”) by saying that it was a song that his daddy used to sing, which melted hearts. He nailed his father’s vocal lines with a quiet, unforced confidence, and it was hard to not feel moved by his performance and presence onstage.
Other highlights: The dual talk box solos between Joe Walsh and tour guitarist Steuart Smith in “Those Shoes”, the ever lively “Funk #49”, the immortal track “Hotel California”. and the elegant closer, “Desperado”, complete with strings and a grand piano. I’ve seen lots of concerts in the last 3 years, and performance-wise, this was one of the most all-around impressive concerts I’ve seen in a long while. The Eagles will continue to tour extensively throughout North America for the next several months, and if you’re a fan of live music, make sure to catch them if they come close. Click here for dates and locations.