The Eagles, led by founding member Don Henley, played their first of two sold-out shows at the Spark Arena in Auckland last night. Country music singer-songwriter Vince Gill and the son of late Glenn Frey, Deacon Frey joined Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit on stage for the two-hour-plus show.
Imagine performing to an audience who knows the words, every chord, note and drum beat to every song. Well, the Eagles did that in a “peaceful and easy” way, thrilling thousands of New Zealand fans while keeping the memory of former bandmate Glenn Frey’s memory and legacy well and truly alive.
The well known vocal harmonies of the Eagles started the show in a cover of Americana pioneer Steve Young’s Seven Bridges Road. Deacon Frey did not falter in his rendition of Take It Easy and Vince Gill’s Take It To The Limit and Tequila Sunrise showed the enamoured crowd how special the night was to become. Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit and particularly Don Henley warmly introduced young Deacon and Gill not just to fill “those shoes” but to carry on the musical legacy of the late Glenn Frey.
The last time this writer saw the Eagles was at the BOC Centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma during their History of the Eagles tour in 2013. Glenn Frey’s performance at that particular show was a clear highlight and I was certain many in the crowd were curious and eager to hear how Deacon would sound like compared to his late father. Dressed casually in black jeans and a short sleeve shirt over a tee with the face of UK soul and smooth jazz singer Sade Adu, Deacon Frey confidently sang with a deeper voice and an endearing manner that showed how much respect he had for his father’s body of work and the camaraderie he shared with fellow Eagles. His take on Peaceful Easy Feeling and Already Gone was incredibly touching.
Vince Gill easily showed why he was the right choice to be an Eagle. In addition to the songs he started with, he effortlessly sang New Kid In Town, Heartache Tonight and a cover of Tom Waits’ Ol’ 55. But, it was his emotionally filled voice in Lyin’ Eyes, accompanied by the melancholy notes of a grand piano, that became one of the night’s special moments.
Don Henley moved from drums and percussion to guitar and lead vocals throughout the show (while keeping an eye on the audience and their use of phones). The edgier and harder Those Shoes was performed on a stage covered in blood red lighting with Walsh using a talk box with his guitar. Life In The Fast Lane with the horn section was a blast and Hotel California with Henley singing from his drum kit was just pure and unadulterated rock and roll.
After seeing Def Leppard perform at the same venue some months ago, it was a welcoming change to see Eagles perform without any obvious use of backing tracks. Here was a band who wanted to be ‘present’ and ‘in the moment’ with the music. Unlike previously announced, the band was not joined by a string section. However, a vibrant horn section came up on stage at the latter part of the set.
Timothy B. Schmit was and after last night, continues to be this writer’s favourite Eagle. His unassuming and humble nature commands respect and that voice! I Can’t Tell You Why (with Walsh on keyboards) and Love Will Keep Us Alive was extremely moving with couples in the audience holding hands and wrapped in each other’s memories.
Much like Keith Richards, there is only one Joe Walsh! Dressed fashionably in a dark collarless jacket and leather pants, Walsh stayed through to his hard-rocking image as he teased the crowd with In The City and Walk Away. However, it was during Life’s Been Good and Funk #49 where Walsh truly rose to the occasion with his kooky personality, comical facial expressions and epic guitar licks and blazing solos.
Interestingly enough, there was another “eagle” on stage that added solos and flourishes on his guitar fretboard to compliment and often completing the Eagles sonic offering. Steuart Smith has been a touring member and one of the lead guitarists with the Eagles since 2001. His mastery of the guitar and dual solos alongside Walsh was incredible and contributed greatly to the flawless performance of the night.
Forty plus years of music passed by too quickly in the two and a half hour show. It had to be accepted that certain classics would not make it onto the set list. Best Of My Love and none of the songs from Long Road Out Of Eden made it on stage. It would have been more icing on the cake to hear more songs from Don Henley and Glenn Frey’s solo albums but that’s a small price to pay for what will remain a memorable evening for many.
The Eagles continue to show that their music remains relevant and priceless in rock music history.