Grand Rapids, Michigan (March 15, 2018) – When the Eagles announced their 53-date 2018 An Evening with the Eagles Tour in late 2017, longtime fans of the iconic band didn’t really know what to expect. Was it going to be a ‘watered down’ show, with tempo and pitch changes to make the songs sound like the Eagles, or something else? With Vince Gill and Deacon Frey signed for their first tour as Eagles the world was to soon find out.
Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI was the third stop of the opening leg of An Evening with the Eagles Tour. As fans of all ages packed into the arena there was an aura in the air that was strange and electric. The anticipation was overwhelming and with the cancellation of the opening band, JD and The Straight Shot, almost to a fever pitch.
When the lights finally dimmed at 8:15 pm the answer to all of the questions at hand began to come to life. When the reimaged Eagles took the stage they moved into a familiar formation, lined up across the stage with Deacon Frey taking his departed fathers spot, front and center. Don Henley, the last remaining original member and unabashed leader of the Eagles, sat high on his classic drum set while Timothy B Schmit, Vince Gill, Joe Walsh, and Steuart Smith lined up to either side of Frey. After a quick “Hello Grand Rapids!” from Henley and a few words from Walsh the show was on, and what a show it was!
The opening song, “Seven Bridges Road”, showed the classic Eagle sound and harmony was still there. In fact, at first listen, one could even say “new and improved”. Could it be the adrenalin or the energy in the arena that was enhancing the senses, or do the Eagles really sound better than they have in years?
For the next two hours and forty minutes each member of the Eagles took turns showcasing material ranging from their debut 1972 album, “Take it Easy”, ”Witchy Woman”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, to the bands last studio recording, “How Long”, from 2007’s Long Road Out of Eden. The 27-song set also included songs from The James Gang catalog and a couple from Joe Walsh’s solo projects.
One of the most poignant moments of the evening took place when Deacon Frey took to the microphone and announced, “this is one my dad used to sing” before breaking into “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. Make no mistake about it, tonight was not a memorial for Glenn Frey who passed away in January of 2016, but an insight into the future of the Eagles. As the song came to a conclusion a picture of Glenn Frey appeared on the giant screen directly behind Deacon and Don Henley. Both men graciously looked backed and nodded in appreciation of their friend and father.
Newcomer, Vince Gill, wasted no time taking his place as an Eagle with lead vocals on “Take it to the Limit”, ”Lyin’ Eyes”, ”New Kid in Town”, and “Heartache Tonight”. With his silky smooth voice and world-class guitar capabilities, the mixture of his country roots with the folk/rock sound of the Eagles appear to be a match made in heaven by the music gods. Any remaining doubts were laid to rest after an upbeat version of Gill’s own “Next Big Thing” was performed. If you didn’t know any better you would have thought this was an Eagle’s original song that the band had been playing for years.
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 70 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!
Finally, it wouldn’t be an Eagles concert without Timothy B. Schmit singing “I Can’t Tell You Why”. Relegated to sitting in a chair for the duration because of an accident after the Chicago show, Schmit still was his typical, jovial self. For a man who recently turned 70 he can still play the bass with the best of the best. On the classics, “One of These Nights”, and “Victim of Love”, his ageless talent was put on display for all to hear and admire. Schmit was rewarded by a rousing ovation from the fans and an approval from Gill who announced to the crowd, “That man can play!”
When the spotlight turned on Henley for the get-your-life-right anthem, “Desperado”, the crowd grew almost silent. The historically last song of the night took on an almost a somber tone. Was the crowd listening to the lyrics of the song or living in the moment while thinking this may be the last time they see the Eagles? We may not ever know the answer, but it was the perfect ending to a night that very few in attendance will forget.
Most bands in their 47th year of existence are either a former shell of themselves or just looking to make a quick buck; the Eagles don’t fall into either category. In fact, this reinvented and rejuvenated version on the iconic band may be the best sounding unit to date. With the addition of Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, who looks and sounds remarkably like a young Glen Frey, they have assembled a group that may extend the Eagles legacy well into the future. With Don Henley’s 21-year old son, Will, playing guitar on select songs this tour, we are left to wonder if he is being groomed to step in down the road.
To answer the question – “do the current Eagles sound as good as previous versions of the Hall Of Fame enshrined band?” They sound better!!!
Senior Photojournalist: John Swider