We thought we'd try to write up something about the Tulsa show we saw this weekend. It's kind of hard to call it a "review" because as we've learned in covering the Eagles for almost 25 years, the songs and the shows can kind of become hard to differentiate. Sure you can compare and say that the band was "on fire" one night or on rare occasions "phoning it in" but for the most part the set list and the musical stylings are predictably consistent (and that isn't necessarily a bad thing). People,though, have asked us how we felt seeing the band again without Glenn and we thought we'd try to share with you some of the conversations we've had amongst ourselves.
Firstly, I feel like any review of an Eagles concert experience these days has to come with a disclaimer. In saying something positive about the current incarnation of the Eagles, we are in no way meaning, implying, insinuating or hinting that we don't miss Glenn EVERY SINGLE MINUTE. To give praise to a 2018 show is in no means meant to denigrate Glenn or his legacy. It doesn't mean that he has been replaced or that anyone is saying that the band is better now without him. There are a lot of people online, who post here or elsewhere, who send us private messages or emails, who seem to think that Glenn and his memory have been swept away under the carpet and that any fan who has fun at a show should feel shame. They imply that if Don and Tim and Joe don't dress in black and play deep cuts from No Fun Aloud at every show and read journal entries about how much he is missed means that they never liked Glenn in the first place and are glad he is gone. In our opinions, ideas like that are inherently more disrespectful to Glenn and his memory than continuing the band without him ever could be. They downplay his influence, his legacy and how much he continues to be loved by his band mates and the fans.
So...disclaimers aside, the Tulsa show was a lot of fun. Everyone on stage was in great spirits. There were laughs and smiles all through the show. The joy that emanates off of Vince Gill is palpable. We still have problems with the set list. There's something about it that feels a bit off. For example, two solo Joe songs in a row near the end (though, we've come to believe that things are structured that way to give Henley a break since there no longer is an intermission where he once joked he could have a "...smoke and a pancake".) Though the band has always included Walsh solo tunes (All Night Long, Turn to Stone, Rocky Mountain Way) without solo efforts from Henley and Schmit it seems a bit odd. Even Vince gets a solo song. Previously, the band had been covering "Next Big Thing" which a song, we can admit we don't know. That's been replaced with "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away" which is a song we do know and it really fits the band well. One poster here suggested the Eagles should include Pure Prairie League's "Aime" and that would be another great choice. The band's harmonies work with this kind of music (heck, they kind of pioneered it).
A lot has been debated about Vince's inclusion on this tour and we've come to the conclusion that this was the best choice. He's happy to play guitar and chime in on harmonies and his music is a good companion to what else happens on stage. Don once said of his solo band that he likes to tour with people who aren't assholes and it's clear that he and Vince have a great relationship. At one point they were cracking each other up left and right. (if you are upset by what I just typed, please see the disclaimer above).
Don reminded everyone that it was Father's Day. We were reminded of the Clemson show in 1996 where Glenn announced that for the first time all the members of the band were fathers. Don said that parenting never stops. Don introduced Deacon and said how proud they all were of him. The crowd went wild with what easily the longest and most enthusiastic standing ovation of the night. That right there is why, in our opinion, this tour is not being disrespectful to Glenn. The fans love Deacon because of how much they loved his dad. They accept him BECAUSE of Glenn, not IN SPITE of him. The other telling thing about this exchange was that after the ovation, Don touched his heart and said quietly, "Thank you for that." That speaks volumes. That's why when we see people like this guy who calls himself the "Real Music Observer" make YouTube videos where he accuses Don of "gyping" the Frey family and taking advantage of them we get angry. It was a beautiful, personal moment.
Deacon talked a little about his dad. He said that being on this tour and doing his dad's songs was the best way he knew to honor him. He also made a joke. In referencing Father's Day he said, "I talked to my Dad and I told him he could have the night off." Don's son Will also played guitar on the edges of the stage. Don did go over and trade licks with him at one point, but that continues to be the extent of his involvement.
Timothy was out of his boot, but we noticed he sat briefly during the trumpet solo before Hotel California (and speaking of trumpet solos, how good are the horns and strings? Because we teach Middle School, I always think about the little 12 year old band geeks who now enthrall arenas and stadiums full of rock music fans. ) Tim got a chance to interact with the crowd by asking people in different sections to cheer. He's perfect for that. He has so much exuberance that you can't help but wave your arms back at him. "Love Will Keep Us Alive" was near perfection.
Joe was Joe. He now wants the audience to shout out "BAH-LOE-KNEE" during Life's Been Good instead of grunting. He and Steuart and Deacon play great off each other, though we miss his interactions with Glenn and the way Glenn would get into Joe's solo numbers.
We talked with Scott before the show (see above what Don said about liking to tour with people who aren't assholes...Scott is definitely not an asshole). He hinted that we were in for a treat. He said that the band would be playing a song they'd never done before. We were incredulous. These are the Eagles, after all. Thinking he meant Vince's solo song, we asked if that was it. Scott told us Vince would be singing it, but it wasn't a Vince song. We were pumped. The song turned out to be "Tulsa Time". Don said it was a tribute to JJ Cale, originator of the "Tulsa Sound". It was just so much fun. Vince sang the verses and everyone sang the chorus in harmony. It featured a great Vince guitar solo as well. A moment of spontaneity like this made us wonder. Songs worked up during sound check haven't been a feature of Eagles shows since 1994. We wondered if the band was looser, or just more inclined to use the talents of someone like Vince. We're not saying it's better, we're just noting that it's different.
From a technical point the screen show was fabulous (though the graphics during Hotel California might be a bit too literal). It's funny. Back during Hell Freezes Over and other tours, there was a track built into the floor and a human camera operator (Peggy!) spent all night long walking back and forth with an assistant to keep slack on her cables. This has been replaced with a small robotic lens that moves back an forth across the front of the stage (we assume run by someone with a joy-stick type controller) We noticed that other camera people weren't crouching on stage and that other robo-cameras were placed strategically as well.
The "rules" were posted on 11 x 17 paper at the front of the stage during the show, but we were assured cell phone photos were okay (though one woman front row center was continually standing to snap). At one point near the end of the show Don told the audience that it was only "Three songs to the 7th inning." He laughed, but we don't know if the rest of the crowed realized it was a joke about the time when people could stand freely.
The show ended as it does with Henley doing "Desperado". The enthusiastic crowd started singing before Don. He patiently waited and held up a finger until he had his silence and then began. It was magic.
I've said previously, that this band isn't the Eagles that we were used to but that it was the Eagles we have now. Seeing how they've gelled makes us think that the band we have now is pretty okay
(please see disclaimer)