Took it to the limit, one more time Eagles reward fans with solid renditions of their best work
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/09/2022 (188 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Don Henley always planned for Hotel California to be a cinematic song, something far greater than an ordinary rock ‘n’ roll number to groove to.
Friday, Sept. 16
• Canada Life Centre
• Attendance: 7,800
★★★★★ out of five
The Eagles’ signature tune retains the singer’s intended power almost a half-century after it was released, and the band only burnished its legacy Friday night at Canada Life Centre when they played it and the rest of the Hotel California album for an arena full of Eagles fans who have never checked out and left their musical heroes.
It’s a dramatic song and album, and it received an appropriate intro when a concierge walked out toward a Hotel California neon sign, just like on the album cover, pulled out the LP and put the record on a turntable. When the needle touched vinyl, it was the cue to strike up the band and play almost seven dynamic minutes of music history.
While Henley and guitarist and vocalist Joe Walsh are those who played on Hotel California and who remain with the Eagles these days, the title track remains a show-stopper.
Henley sang while playing drums — no mean feat at 25, let alone 75, his age — and his sandy voice has stood the test of time just like the famous tune he sang.
Also notable were the guitars, which add even more punch to the song. Walsh, who is known for being a hell-raiser and hotel-room wrecker in his younger days, was all business.
There’s no time for high-stepping and posing for the fans when they demand a precise rendition, and he, along with hired-gun guitarist Steuart Smith, was as focused on the famous finale as members of an orchestra during a symphony.
Talking about orchestra and choir there was one supplemented by members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Winnipeg’s Horizon Choir, supporting the Eagles for other Hotel California tracks, including Wasted Time and The Last Resort, which was a powerful closer for the opening set.
After an intermission and some famous Eagles harmonies during Seven Bridges Road, Henley welcomed Deacon Frey to the stage to sing the crowd-pleaser Take It Easy, the hit his father Glenn co-wrote with Jackson Browne, and Peaceful Easy Feeling, a song that has since become linked with the cult classic film The Big Lebowski.
Many Eagles fans say Glenn Frey, who died in 2016, was the heart and soul of the band, and it would be hard to argue when it takes two artists — his son and Vince Gill, one of country music’s greatest performers — to make up for his absence.
He did leave a trove of hits he wrote and co-wrote behind, and they made up the core of the second half of the show, including One of These Nights, Lyin’ Eyes and Take it to the Limit.
That song, a slow-dance staple for decades of parties and wedding socials in Winnipeg, was far from routine on Friday night.
Gill sang the 1975 hit once sung by original Eagles member Randy Meisner, and he took the song’s drama to the limit, aided by the orchestra that emerged once again from behind the curtain to create the best moment of the evening.
While other rock groups living off past glories, such as the Rolling Stones, are glorified for a seemingly sloppy approach to their hits, the Eagles of the 21st century go to the other extreme. The band’s attention to detail is a gift to their longtime fans, many of whom paid some stiff prices to relive their favourite musical moments, and they were well rewarded.
Walsh came to the fore in the latter moments of the second set, joking with the crowd prior to Life’s Been Good (his Maserati still goes 185) one of a handful of his songs from his solo career or the James Gang, from where he was recruited by the Eagles for Hotel California.
Gill took on the lead vocals for Heartache Tonight as the Eagles got into full-blast arena-rock mode. His voice is different than Glenn Frey’s a bit, but the song’s spirit remains.
After Walsh cranked it up with Rocky Mountain Way to kick off the encore, Henley took centre stage and dialled the show down with Desperado, accompanied once again by the orchestra. Henley, the band and the strings showed why Desperado, like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, is covered by so many other artists. It was a great moment.
He also sang The Boys of Summer, a Gen-X favourite from his solo career, which will create some debate among Eagles aficionados about whether it fits or not in a set of mostly Eagles hits.
Its ’80s vibe differs greatly from the smooth ’70s Eagles hits, such as Best of My Love, which closed an evening of superbly performed album-rock nostalgia.
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Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.