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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Revised Eagles Lineup Receives a Warm Welcome at the Q

Concert Review

Posted By on Sun, Oct 21, 2018 at 1:54 PM

click to enlarge SCOTT SANDBERG
  • Scott Sandberg
The last time that the Eagles were in town at Quicken Loans Arena in 2013, one of the best moments of the night came at the very beginning as Don Henley and Glenn Frey came out with only a couple of acoustic guitars, sat down and delivered an intimate rendering of “Saturday Night” from 1973’s Desperado album. It felt like a trip back to how it must have sounded when they were writing the song and playing it together for the first time. The rest of the first set that night unfolded in similar fashion with the remaining band members joining Henley and Frey gradually as they continued to dig through the corners of their back catalog for similar obscurities that hadn’t been played as much in recent times.

The tragic passing of Frey just a few short years later at the beginning of 2016 made that night at the Q feel like a really special parting gift. Understandably, it was announced that the Eagles would not continue. And how could they? One of the great creative and vocal partnerships had been silenced with Frey’s exit. The subsequent decision to carry forward with Frey’s son, Deacon, stepping into the mix in place of his father and with longtime country singer/songwriter Vince Gill also joining up was met with some trepidation from fans. Their debut performance at the Classic West festival in Los Angeles in July of last year went well and they continued to book scattered dates before eventually announcing a full tour.

More than a year later, Cleveland fans got their first look at the revised lineup last night, and the band received a warm welcome. In fact, all they had to do was walk on stage where as they stood motionless for a moment in the shadows, the crowd, packed to the rafters, cheered at full volume. They began with the a cappella vocal opening of “Seven Bridges Road,” that demonstrated with no question that even with a shuffling of the lineup, that classic Eagles sound is still there.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the show here.

One can only imagine the nerves that Deacon Frey must have been working against when he came out to sing his father’s legendary songs for the first time in front of a huge audience during that initial Los Angeles show, but he handled those duties with an incredible amount of poise during last night’s show, tackling “Take It Easy,” arguably a signature song, if not the signature song in his dad’s repertoire, only two songs into the set. Visually, the younger Frey is a throwback, standing on stage with the senior members of the band, wearing a T-shirt and jeans with shoulder length hair and a mustache, the resemblance was there, almost as if they had gone back in time to pluck Glenn Frey out of the '70s and pop him on stage with the present day Eagles. Vocally and guitar-wise, he turned in a performance that paid a worthy tribute to his father with a relaxed delivery that felt really close to what fans had known for so many years with Glenn.

A few songs into the night, Don Henley spoke for the first time, telling fans that the Cleveland show was the final date of their summer tour, adding that, “We’re gonna leave it all on the stage for you.” In fact, he said, “We’re going to play about two and a half hours of music for you, because we can.” Taking a more serious tone, he went on to say, “The reason that we can is because of Deacon Frey, a young man who had some big shoes to fill.” Henley said. “We’ll be honoring his father’s legacy and four decades of songs, tonight.” He went on to also praise Gill, calling him, “One of America’s finest songwriters and a helluva guitar player,” setting up Gill’s first turn of the night on “Take It To the Limit.”

Gill’s lead vocal on “Take It To the Limit” flew closer to the spirit of how former Eagles bassist Randy Meisner (who also co-wrote the song) sang the original version. It wasn’t hard to visualize how well the addition of Gill to the Eagles lineup was going to play out. His reverence for the band and their catalog is well-known and during a 2015 conversation with Scene, he also spoke about his love for Joe Walsh, calling him “one of my favorite humans” and telling us that as a kid, “I sat in my room and played ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ and James Gang songs.” Watching him trade riffs with Walsh, it was clear that he’s getting a chance to live out a few dreams thanks to this current stint with the band. While the Eagles might not be hurting for solid guitar players with Joe Walsh and Steuart Smith (who replaced Don Felder more than a decade ago) in the lineup, Henley’s assessment of Gill’s guitar skills is no hype — in fact, Gill has probably always deserved a lot more notice for his guitar playing than he has received. He’s getting that long-deserved spotlight now with what he adds to the Eagles show with his guitar work. We could spend a lot more time praising his work last night, but let’s just say that “Vince the New Guy,” as he humorously labeled himself midway through the show, brings a lot to the table and every vocal slot that he was given (“Ol’ '55” in particular) was a real pleasure to witness.

Overall, last night’s Eagles performance was a triumph that some might not have predicted. It was hard not to wish that the setlist would have been a little bit more adventurous in the way that the 2013 History of the Eagles tour was. But at the same point, it was impressive that the band played for two and a half hours straight without intermission, with Walsh getting his usual spotlight with a pair of songs plucked from his solo catalog (“Life’s Been Good,” “Rocky Mountain Way”) and a pair of James Gang staples (“Funk #49,” “Walk Away”). While those selections have been standard for a long time in the Eagles setlist, in front of the hometown crowd, they always win big. Henley added “The Boys of Summer” from his solo work and bassist Timothy B. Schmit brought in the newest material of the night, grabbing “Love Will Keep Us Alive” off of 1994’s Hell Freezes Over. It’s a safe formula for success next to all of the classic Eagles favorites and the crowd loved every minute of it. With Gill and Frey filling out the revised lineup in solid fashion, it’s clear that the band can easily carry things forward for the foreseeable future if they choose to. What they’ll be doing with those extra added years will be intriguing to watch.

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