Eagles at the Grand Ole Opry.
When we heard this special Sirius concert event announced, we knew we needed to be there. We already had round trip flights booked to Detroit, so figuring out how to work in a side trip to Nashville on Sunday would be a bit of a challenge. After we knew we had tickets (and we are so thankful to those who made that happen), we changed our return flight out of Detroit to a return flight out of Nashville and booked a one-way flight from Detroit to Nashville. It’s a miracle it all worked out.
We were curious about what this show would be like. Would there be special guests? Would more be made of Opry member Vince Gill’s presence? Would Don say something about listening to the Opry and the Louisiana Hayride in his youth? We would soon find out.
We got to Nashville the day before the concert so that we could do some sightseeing before the show. It was cold (so cold, Melissa had to go and buy a sweatshirt) and rainy. We spent the morning touring the house and grounds at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. So, we were cold and windblown by the time we decided to head to the Opry to see if we could pick up our tickets early. For those who may not be aware, the main showroom for the Grand Ol Opry moved out of the Ryman auditorium back in 1974. Since then, Opry shows have been held at the Opry house on the grounds of what used to be the Opryland USA Themepark (where Lisa was traumatized as a child when an actor dressed as a giant guitar snuck up behind her and covered her eyes. She was very brave to go back.) The Opry is by a huge mall, so parking was a nightmare. We parked and made our way over to where they were handing out tickets. It was about 3:00 PM and there was a steady stream of people heading to the blue Sirius XM tents. Our suspicion is that they just emailed any subscribers who entered the contest who lived in Nashville and the surrounding area and told them to come and get tickets.
The front of the Opryhouse was bedecked with giant guitars and Eagles’ banners everywhere. We were told that our tickets would be at this little cottage located next to the main theater.
Remember, we are middle-aged women. We had been out in the cold, wind and rain and we looked like it. We walked into the cottage and there was this perfectly coiffed young man stuffed into a tight black t-shirt. He had a Bluetooth thing in his ear and was showing off his very developed arms. He took one look at us and asked, “Who are you picking up for?” We had stumbled into the location where celebrity assistants came to pick up tickets for their employers. He had a spreadsheet in front of him with some very familiar names on it. “Um…we’re picking up for us.” He looked confused, but when we explained what was going on, he told us that our tickets would be at the venue at 5:30. So we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening’s festivities.
So the show….
I never expected to see a show at this legendary venue…much less the Eagles. We got there early to get our tickets and waited to get inside to see what it would be like.
As we waited a TON of media made their way in to the venue. Reporters and video cameras and still photographers all paraded their equipment inside. There were local news crews and folks from US Magazine.
We also heard chatter on walkie-talkies about the red carpet that was happening on the other isolated side of the building. We figured some big-name country artists would be there, but we assumed that we’d have to wait to get back to the hotel to check out the photos and media reports.
Finally, we got in after being handed a commemorative pass. Our seats were in the mezzanine, so we had a great view of the stage and all the goings on. We didn’t have to wait to see what other famous artists would be there. From our perch, we watched Amy Grant as well as her daughter with Vince Gill come in and take their seats. Charles Esten from Nashville (he’ll always be Josh from the Office and that guy from Whose Line is it Anyway? to me) came in and greeted a bunch of people near his seats. It was easy to see where the celebrities were because of how the people in the seats would turn and aim their phones at them when they came in. That’s how we deduced that it was Kid Rock in the baseball hat. Reba was easy to spot with her shock of red hair. Lisa said she’d know Sheryl Crow’s arms anywhere and Big (I don’t know his actual name) of Big and Rich came in with his wife who was also wearing an interesting hat. There were several young men in cowboy hats as well that some people in the crowd seemed to recognize. Even after looking at the Getty images and their names, we still don’t know who they were.
Over on the far side of the mezzanine, they had a media center corded off. David Fricke and some other DJs were there broadcasting before the show. I think they were recording some pre-show banter. If anyone important or famous came up to them, we didn’t notice it. There was a lot of excitement in the air. We had to channel that excitement before the band took the stage. The guy in charge from Sirius welcomed us and led us through some exercises so that they could get adequate sound readings.
“Give a big cheer”
“laugh at a funny joke”
Stuff like that.
Then the show started.
A quick note about the Sirius XM Radio "live" broadcast...
The songs that Sirius played weren't being played live. The only mention that the radio broadcast was going on came early in the show when Joe mentioned that they were "Streaming" that night. We thought that they would stop the broadcast and let us know that they were going live, but they didn't.
At exactly 10:00 when they were set to go live, Joe started playing Walk Away. I though this was an odd choice (it's the Opry..it's a solo song) so I checked my phone to find out that radio listeners were hearing Vince do Take it to the Limit. So, the songs that night were recorded live, but they weren't simulcast as we were led to believe.
Back to the show...
It was different from Detroit. Don’t get me wrong…the show was pretty much the same. In fact, it was the exact same set list, but the vibe was different.
We still missed Glenn, but the raw emotion of his loss had lessened since Detroit. There were no video screens…no fancy lights (though some lasery things came out at the end). It was just these guys on stage, playing these songs.
And the songs were what it was all about that night, on that stage, in that town.
And the craftsmanship that went into creating them.
Nasvhille is an industry town full of critics and legends and Johnny-come-latelies. The amount of cynicism and jadedness about the music business that comes with that might have made any other show one where you show up to be seen, have a few drinks, network and send a tweet to prove you were there. That wasn’t the case.
There was so much love in that room for those songs. Reba danced. Amy danced (her daughter, though, spent a bit of time that night on her phone as teens are likely to do). Just like in Detroit, people sang along to every song. They embraced the country classics.
The new bluegrass tinge to “Seven Bridges Road” worked nicely. “Already Gone” and “Lyin’ Eyes” are the cornerstone of modern country music, that can’t be denied.
But people loved the other songs too….
Don Henley stood on the Opry stage and sang “Those Shoes” and people loved it. “Life in the Fastlane”, “Funk 49”, “Hotel California” had people on their feet cheering. Nobody complained that “…this wasn’t country!” Nobody got up and left feeling that the sacred shrine to Americana had been profaned with a song that referenced “tablets of love.” That’s because these songs are everyone’s songs. The “country” they are a part of isn’t just the horse riding, hat wearing, whiskey drinking country. They belong to America and they transcend time and place.
The other thing that the sparse stage made so clear was the perfection and craftsmanship that go into these shows. There’s a moment in “Best of My Love” when it is a line of guys standing on stage from all different parts of the country and different generations. There’s country music royalty from Oklahoma, a guitar god from New Jersey, an environmentalist and master of words from Texas, an angelic voiced hippie from California and the son of a legend who grew up surrounded by wealth and a loving family in Southern California. Watch them during that song. They all strum their guitars in absolute unison. It’s like clock-work. The same motion…up down…up down all while their voices blend together to sing the band’s first number one hit. It’s an amazing sight to behold and speaks to the talent and hard work that went into and still go into making this band as good as it is.
Speaking of “Best of My Love”, before he introduced it, Don mentioned that it was their first number one hit…that their first albums hadn’t had a #1. Someone in the audience yelled out, “Why not?”
Don replied, “I don’t know why not,” and started to suggest that was a question for radio programmers. Perhaps realizing who was sponsoring the evening, Don glanced up at the Sirius booth in the corner and began the tune.
People were enthralled. The crowd wasn’t as wild as they had been in Detroit (there was one woman who kept yelling “Hotel California!” after every song. Don may have finally mumbled that she should cut it out. Timothy remarked that the crowd was very well behaved and they were…except for that Amy Grant…up and dancing like a crazy woman. I kid. It was super cool to see her having so much fin.
I mentioned that there was a lot of love in the room for the songs. There was plenty of love for the band as well both from the audience and the band members.
Just like in Detroit, you could palpably feel the love the crowd had for Deacon. When Joe announced him the cheers and yells were like a giant hug coming from the crowd to the young man up on stage. Everyone was pulling for him. Everyone felt for him. Everyone wanted him to know how much his dad meant to all of us. We were all…proud and I think a bit grateful that he would step in and do this.
There was one guy sitting behind us who felt like he had to narrate the whole show for his friends. When Deacon sang, he kept saying, “He sounds just like his dad.” I don’t think he does. Deacon has his own voice. It’s deeper and richer and not as twangy and nasal as Glenn’s. He sounds like Deacon and that’s a good thing. What he has in common with his dad is an extreme amount of confidence (Don remarked how ballsy it was for Deacon to play his first show with them in front of a stadium full of fans) and the ability to interpret these songs with the emotion and energy they deserve. He doesn’t have to sound like Glenn for them to be great.
Deacon understood that love as well. I think he gets how much these songs and this band mean to people. He talked about how surreal it was to be playing where he was and the experiences he’s had in his short time with the band. He thanked the crowed and then turned and thanked the other guys on stage. . At one point, Vince turned to Deacon and told him that “I loved your Daddy and I love you.” Don and Deacon embraced during the bow at the end of the show. There was just so much emotion in that room.
Timothy mentioned Vince and told the crowd that he thought that the guitar player might have a future in the music business and added humorously, “…and he’s so hard to get along with too.”
There was a lot of laughter and joking, though I think the crowd didn’t catch on to some of it. Don introduced “Those Shoes” by saying in deadpan…
There were these shoes in the 70s.
They were made by Charles Jourdan
Women wore them.
I wrote a song about ‘em
Maybe you had to be there.
Maybe you had to be there for that one.
I think Vince probably summed up the evening the best when he said, “Forty-five years ago, I heard the first record that The Eagles made, and it changed everybody's lives. It's been one of the great thrills of my life to receive this phone call this year to come in and sing some of these songs with these guys, and keep these songs alive. And I must tell you, it's very strange for me to hear anybody's voice but Glenn's sing these songs. But I'm doing my best, and having a great time. I love getting to know these guys. They've been heroes of mine my whole life.”
“I love getting to know these guys.” Maybe that’s the way to approach the “new” iteration of this band. As I said previously these aren’t the Eagles we remember…they are the Eagles we have now.
We think fans are going to love getting to know these guys.