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The Eagles Revisit ‘Hotel California’ at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit

The Eagles perform at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit © John Swider

Detroit,Michigan (March 24,2022) – When the Eagles announced their Hotel California Tour, longtime fans of the iconic band didn’t really know what to expect. Was it going to be a ‘watered down’ performance with tempo and pitch changes to make the songs sound like the legendary Eagles, or something else? With Vince Gill on for his second tour of duty with the band and Deacon Frey missing because of illness, their fans in the Motor City world soon find out.

Thursday night’s show at Little Caesars Arena was a reminder that, for a lot of people, the Eagles pretty much provided the soundtrack to the best years of their lives. That was certainly the case for the twenty thousand or so at the show, who filled the arena to the rafters and seemingly knew all the words to each cut .

Combining country, soul, R&B, bluegrass, funk, folk and the blues into a grab bag blandly titled California rock, the Eagles offer something for everyone. Recently, their 1975 greatest hits package was declared the bestselling album of the 20th century with 38 million copies sold up to that point. Released a year later, the “Hotel California” album, which they played front to back in its entirety Thursday, sold 26 million copies, the third most in U.S. history. Whatever side of the divide you come down on with regard to the Eagles, allow the band this; tonights performance of 1977 magnum opus Hotel California was a mesmerizing showcase for one of rock music’s most defining records.

The play through of Hotel California LP set was up first and featured a “hotel employee,” attired in what could only be described as “high desert Goth chic” — walking the length of the stage to place a vinyl LP on a turntable, complete with a popping static sound effect to begin each “side” of the album-length showcase. It was schtick for sure, but also drove home — in a way so many bands who undertake similar ventures do not — the cohesive statement about what was at hand.

Perched behind his drum kit in the center of the sprawling stage, Henley’s voice, rougher for the years served, was even better suited for the song at this stage in his life, started with the all too familiar, “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.” Suddenly, twenty thousand fans were thinking this could be heaven. The band kept them thinking that for over three hours by balancing meticulousness and passion through the LP’s legendary cuts “New Kid in Town,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Victim of Love”  all the way to the vastly under appreciated ,”Try and Love Again. A string orchestra, conducted by original “Hotel California” arranger Jim Ed Norman, enhanced the originality musically of “Wasted Time,” “Wasted Time (Reprise)” and “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” while “The Last Resort,” which featured Detroit’s award winning David Whitfield Choir, was the gem of early set and led to a very short intermission because frankly, nothing could follow that.

“We’re glad to be with you this evening. At this stage of the game, we’re pretty much glad to be anywhere,” Henley said at the start of the “hits” portion of the set, drawing a huge response from the crowd. “We want to provide you this evening with a three-hour vacation from all the chaos and what’s been going on in the world.” ….Don Henley

With that heartfelt lead in, the Eagles broke into “Seven Bridges Road” followed by one of the band’s earliest hits, “Take it Easy,” featuring Gill singing lead and putting the country back into the group’s country rock sound. Given a recording history that now spans exactly 50 years since starting with the late Glenn Frey it also marked the start of a lengthier set of the bands standalone hits. Included were impeccable renderings of  “One Of These Nights,” “Take It To The Limit” and the Timothy B. Schmidt classic “I Can’t Tell You Why.” In fact, the total “hits” package was a textbook example of the Eagles’ superhuman harmonies, while a few like the rollicking “Those Shoes” took a psychedelic turn towards the talk box and “Heartache Tonight” stomped with an irresistible honky-tonk groove for the initial finale.

Even the ever popular Walsh and Henley, each one superstars in their own right, got a fleeting moment in the spotlight to deliver monumental solo moments. Joe Walsh, is there anything more that can be said about this archetypal rock-n-roller that hasn’t already been said? Not really, but when you’re 74 years old and hit the stage in leather pants you’re either a virtuoso at your craft or a little senile. Tonight Walsh stole the show with his incredible guitar solos on “Walk Away,” “Funk 49,” “Life’s Been Good” and the epic “Rocky Mountain Way.” During “Life’s Been Good,” Walsh summed it up by revising a classic line, “I’m making records, my fans they can’t wait. They write me emails, tell me Vince is great”. If that’s not someone rejuvenated and ready to rock and roll you, better have the ole’ ticker checked out!

Not to be out done by any means, Don Henley tore through a extended play through of “Boys of Summer,” a cut from his personal music library that still stands as fresh today as it did when it was released in 1984. In fact, every Eagles song has stood the test of time, right down to “Desperado” which once again featured the Jim Norman led string orchestra which segued into the final exclamation of the evening, a glorious grand finale, the Henley led “Best Of My Love.”

The Eagles performance in the Motor City Thursday evening had an emotional undercurrent deep beneath every note played and also underscored the nature of what the Eagles accomplished for the fans and the unit itself. The band has been a going concern for Henley and crew for the better part of five decades now, and the shadows cast by its magnificent catalog are lengthy. But with each members advancing age, every live performance has become shadowed by a sense of finality as remembrance. Endure long enough, however, and the weight of history becomes more pronounced were longevity fades.

The realization of the overall magnitude of the night was made after watching an aging fan, among the many in attendance, basking one more time in the sounds and glory days of its youth. “Who knows if I’ll ever see the Eagles again?” was a lingering question heard multiple times throughout the night. Still, for one evening in Detroit, the Eagles beat back those growing shadows at Little Caesars Arena finding fresh perspective in 45 plus year-old songs, tinged with new voices and reclaiming an evocative masterpiece from its multi-platinum pedestal. Call it reckoning, but this time, with a legacy of their own terms.

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Eagles © John Swider
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