Last night people lucky enough to be at Mt Smart Stadium for the Eagles concert were transported through a magical three-hour music journey.
The songbook for this gig showcased forty years of hits, so the band probably could have played it safe and put on a predictable show and the fans would have still been happy. But I don’t imagine that could ever be the case when Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit get on stage together. Each tune is performed by these brilliant artists with such style, skill and showmanship.
All four are amazing musicians in their own right and I think that’s why their music has stood the test of time. How many bands do you see today who play a variety of songs written by all four members? Each of them has a different sound and they could all put on their own solo shows, yet still they work so beautifully together.
On stage you can see how much they love each others music. You can tell they are thrilled to be working together, even if there have been a few rough patches over the years. All four of them are the stars, and their attitude as you watch them support each other reinforces that.
The concert last night was about telling the history of the Eagles. The players talked us through the years, the ups and downs, the lessons learnt and most importantly, the best music that was made.
Although I thought the gig started off a little slowly, with two relatively unknown songs, Saturday Night and Train Leaves Here This Morning, and the lack of Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit on stage, the tunes told an important part of the story of the Eagles. It took the crowd back to the very beginning when these two weren’t a part of the group. It was wonderful to see Bernie Leadon, an original member of the band, on stage for a number of songs and given the recognition he deserves for his part in their phenomenal success.
Before I knew it the full band was on stage and we were hearing hit after hit. I knew the Eagles had a massive career of number ones but the woman standing behind me put it so perfectly when she exclaimed – “everybody here knows every damn song”. And they did. Every song was a singalong, even if that ‘singing’ often ended up just being people imitating many a guitar solo with high pitched whines.
In the first half I was particularly taken by a brilliant version of Doolin-Dalton and a stunning vocal performance in Witchy Woman. These songs proved, with their high pitched harmonies, that all four members voices are still perfectly in tact, an amazing feat when they’re getting on a bit. Other crowd favourites were Tequila Sunrise, Best of My Love and Peaceful Easy Feeling.
The chills down the spine really started to emerge during the final song before intermission – Take It To The Limit. Frey took on the vocals as if he’d always sung them and blew everyone away. It was a very emotion evoking performance as the sun went down.
But for me, things really came alive in the second half when Joe Walsh started doing his thing. He is easily the best guitarist I’ve seen perform live. In every song with an electric solo he stole the show. I kept finding my mouth would drop open and my hands would raise to my cheeks as I was mesmerised by his ability.
The rocker, who spent some time here in 1989 (in the peak of his drug use) playing with kiwi group Herbs, was a charmer with the crowd. He told us it was great to be back in New Zealand before following it with one hell of a punchline: “I spent a month here one night”.
My favourite moments in the concert came when Walsh lead the group in In The City, singing with a hair raising effect and busting out a guitar solo like nothing I’d ever heard before. I was so overwhelmed I was lost for words for a while. When I got them back I was quick to exclaim that song was one of the best I’ve ever seen in concert.
Walsh also blew me away with a stunning performance of Pretty Maids All In A Row and in his talk-box sessions in Rocky Mountain Way and Funk #49 which made it impossible to keep a smile off your face.
There were many other fun moments like when Frey and Walsh had a guitar solo competition. Both of them leapt around on stage trying to outdo one another. It was hilarious but also a very impressive showcase of their talents. The narratives told between songs kept the story of their history flowing and showed personality. Henley was particularly interesting talking about how lucky they were to have made it this far in life and what it meant to still be performing together. This was a perfect introduction to The Long Run.
Heartache Tonight, I Can’t Tell You Why and Life In The Fast Lane all went down a treat with the crowd. That before they got what they really wanted – Hotel California. This, being the groups most famous song, was always going to be a popular one but when you see it performed like this you can understand why it’s always been the song on everyone’s playlist. The group gave it new life on stage, the vocals from Henley were faultless and the layers of guitar melodies were chilling. When brought together with an almighty electric guitar finale it was a truly spectacular moment.
The show came to a close with a stunning but simplistic Desperado and everyone was left 100% satisfied.
This concert told their history and what an amazing 40 years of work the Eagles have to put on display. In their performance last night – they certainly did every bit of it justice.