It's the early 1970's. Don Henley and Glenn Frey are playing in Linda Ronstadt's band. They decide they want a band of their own. They get together with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. The foursome becomes the legendary country rock band, the Eagles.
A few years pass. They need another guitarist. Enter Don Felder. Another couple of years pass. The band has become less country and more rock. Leadon is out and replaced by Joe Walsh. Then Meisner has had enough and in comes former Poco bassist Timothy B. Schmit.
When the band goes on it's now infamous fourteen year hiatus, the original foursome is down to two.
In 1995, when the Eagles reunited, it was that same fivesome that hit the road. A few years later, Felder was fired. In 2016, when Glenn Frey died, the only original Eagle left was Don Henley. Sure, he's a very important member but still it's just one single Eagle.
When Henley, Walsh and Schmit decided they wanted to try to continue to play together, they needed some new faces. They added Vince Gill and Frey's son Deacon. Both are nice touches, but does that make this group the Eagles?
My first thought was these guys are not really the Eagles, especially without Glenn Frey. But in the last few days, I've had second thoughts. Fleetwood Mac is touring at the same time as this current Eagles tour. They just fired Lindsay Buckingham and replaced him with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn. They still call themselves Fleetwood Mac, don't they? And this is far from the first time they've had changes of band members. I'm counting twelve former members of the band. Even the Buckingham/Stevie Nicks version of the band was the third or fourth time the band had changed members and it's sound....and I still never thought of them as anything but Fleetwood Mac.
Okay...okay...if I can be down with all of this, I guess it's fine for these guys to be the Eagles. I've come around. Hey, a guy is entitled to change his mind...and I did.
The reason for this is the Eagles hit the United Center, in Chicago, last night. It was their second time at the UC this year. When they were here in March, I wasn't interested. It was that not real Eagles thing; plus I wanted to remember them they way they were. I was sure I was going to feel the same way about this show but tickets for good seats were available at a good price. I also admit to being curious about how this group of guys would sound together. Finally, if you want to hear Eagles songs live, this is the only way to hear them by the guys who made them. Them or nothing. I chose them.
The show itself is pretty straight forward. No frills, just music. No gimmicks, just a bunch of guys playing hit after hit after hit. Twenty-five songs...two and a half hours of music.
The concert seemed to start off pretty slow. There didn't seem to be a lot of energy in either the band or the audience. But two things were apparent from the first notes of the opening song, "Seven Bridges Road." The Eagles harmonies which defined the band from the beginning were still there. They sing beautifully together. They also can play some great guitar.
Joe Walsh again showed why he is one of great guitarist in the rock world. His solos are intense and full of energy. Walsh also traded licks with long time touring member Steuart Smith. The tandem almost makes you stop missing the musicianship of Don Felder...almost.
The band members took turns being out front. Gill has a wonderful voice. He can handle some of the Glenn Frey tunes plus does a nice job on Randy Meisner's Take It To The Limit." Schmit does a few of his tunes but is mostly in the background doing harmony vocals and playing the bass. Surprisingly, Henley is very laid back during the show. He spends a lot of time playing the drums and is occasionally up front on guitar and doing lead vocals on his songs, but I expected more from the acknowledged leader of the band.
My biggest surprise was how much I liked Deacon Frey. I admit I wasn't expecting much from him but I'm now admitting I was wrong. He did a very good job singing his dad's songs. You can picture Glenn singing on "Take It Easy", while at the same time recognizing that Deacon is a talent in his own right. The kid has a future in the music business after this gig is over.
The one who provides the most energy is Joe Walsh. It makes sense. He has the biggest personality in this band and it's on display from the beginning. Walsh is the first one to walk up to the microphone, welcome the crowd to the show and he's constantly trying to get us excited and involved. It finally works about two thirds of the way into the concert. Two of Walsh's older songs, "Walk Away" and "Life's Been Good" are played and they get the laid back crowd up on their feet, cheering and dancing.
You could feel the change in the band and the audience from that point until the end. "Heartache Tonight", "Funk #49" and "Life In The Fast Lane" ended the set. The first encore is "Hotel California", of course. I mean, you have to play it, right? The final encore was Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" and the finale of "Desperado", with Henley's best vocal of the night.
It was a great night of music. There were only a few songs that you may have wished they would have played but nothing missing was a deal breaker. They did a great job covering more than four decades of the band. Would I go see this band again? Maybe, maybe not. Would I recommend seeing them? Absolutely.
Are they really the Eagles? Yes....they proved that Monday night, for sure.
Here's the setlist from the concert in Detroit. The songs and order have been the same on all the stops of the tour.
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