Monday night, the universe decided to teach stickler fans of the Eagles a lesson: If you don’t like the fact that Deacon Frey is covering for his late father Glenn, you don’t get to have a Frey onstage at all.
Right before the current leg of the group’s Hotel California
tour, it was announced that the new kid in town had come down with an unspecified illness, and will be sitting out until further notice. Obviously, the show had to go on, but Tampa did get to witness a rare Eagles show without anyone in the Frey clan present. That just left sole co-founder Don Henley, shred wizard Joe Walsh, and The Long Run
-era bassist Timothy B. Schmit, along with the strange but cool addition of Vince Gill (yes, that Vince Gill).
At 8:15 p.m, a ghoulish bellhop slowly sauntered onto the gray curtain-draped stage, holding a vinyl copy of Hotel California
. He made his way to a record player on far stage-right, blew the dust off of the record, and set it down. The needle dropped and the curtain rose.
Don, Joe, and Timothy were all dressed conservatively while performing the band’s best-known album front to back. Henley, donning a Robert Fripp-style white button down and black vest, sang a transposed version of the album’s title track while behind the drum kit, which would only happen a few times throughout the show. Don Felder has been out of the group for two decades now, so dueling Walsh on that legendary guitar solo was touring guitarist Steuart Smith, who even held a double-neck axe. Whether that was a salute to Felder, or a giant middle finger, the old guys still managed to crack out the solo almost exactly as it appeared on the original album.
Gill did Frey’s vocal parts on “New Kid In Town,” and Walsh harmonized with Schmit’s bass during one of the instrumental segments of “Life In The Fast Lane.” Nobody had any issues whatsoever watching Henley shine centerstage on the album’s regretful side A closer, “Wasted Time,” which saw a surprise appearance from a full, all-local orchestra, laid out right behind the band.
A woman in black came onstage to flip the record over, to which the orchestra would immediately launch into “Wasted Time (Reprise).” It would then leave the stage to let Don and friends continue doing their thing, until the album’s closer, “The Last Resort,” which not only saw the orchestra’s return, but also the appearance of a 20-piece local choir. Finally, right around 9 p.m., the last note was struck, and the crowd lost it.
“Thank you,” Henley finally mumbled.
A 20-minute intermission took place, and while members of the orchestra hung out backstage, Don, Joe, Tim, Vince, and Steuart launched into a breathtaking rendition of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road,” a favorite of the Eagles' for several years. Vince Gill did Glenn Frey’s vocals during “Take It Easy,” and whoever took on those high harmonies on “One Of These Nights” deserves a major pat on the back. Once the latter ended, Henley, now dressed much less conservatively, finally came to the mic and spoke. “It’s not that we don’t care about what’s going on in the world right now, it’s just that we need a break,” he explained. “Makes a fella want to drink.”
The rest of the set was nothing but wall-to-wall greatest hits that fans in the sold-out Amalie Arena shelled out over $120 to hear. Schmit powered through Glenn’s vocals during “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Henley returned to Phil Collins mode (singing and drumming) on a slightly slowed-down “Witchy Woman,” and Gill carried “Take It To The Limit.” Nothing against Joe Walsh, but this live version was infinitely better than when Joe sang it while opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the same building, five years prior
Come to think of it, Joe might have actually been the star of the show. He very generously gave us a healthy mix of his own Eagles songs (“In The City,” “Pretty Maids All In A Row”), as well as a few cuts of his from outside the Eagles. He saluted the James Gang with “Funk #49,” and during the band’s post “Heartache Tonight” encore, the obligatory “Rocky Mountain Way,” talkbox and all, and God love him, but did anyone understand what the hell he was saying during his pre-“Life’s Been Good” banter?
During that encore, Joe wasn’t the only one with a solo tune. Believe it or not, Henley actually dusted off “Boys Of Summer,” written with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell—the latter of whom is in town for a show next week. The other two performed were “Desperado,” which saw the return of the orchestra, and closing up was “The Best of My Love,” which may have seemed like an odd closer compared to “Desperado,” but still gave us the lingering feeling that the Eagles were saying goodbye. “In case we don't pass this way again, I want to thank all of you for a wonderful ride, for a wonderful 50 years.” Henley explained.
But then again, how many farewell tours have the guys done?