Eagles at Wembley

in Culture Insight

I’ve had this band on my bucket list for so long that sadly one of them passed on. The legendary Country rock band that wrote ‘Hotel California’, perhaps the most well-known song in the world, are still around albeit in the autumn of their years. They’re still filling stadiums across the world.

Thankfully I was helped by my son to secure a top seat fifteen rows away from stage front at Wembley Stadium on 23rd June. This after the concert had been sold out months previously. My stars had aligned for this to happen and I was beyond excited.

It was probably the finest concert that I have witnessed over many years and like their fans around me I was held spellbound by the sheer quality of their vocals and the impeccable renditions of their well-known song catalogue. ‘The Eagles Greatest Hits’ album of the seventies was the US biggest selling album of all time and they are still one of the best-selling concert bands in the world. They are now off my bucket list and I need to spread the joy about these musical dinosaurs in London this summer.

After a very good set from opening act Cheryl Crow and her band who said she had past help from ‘The Eagles’ in her early career (25 years ago), the legends took to the stage at 7.45pm and after a staggeringly impressive ‘Seven Bridges Road’ opening, promised a two and a half hour concert “because we can” casually said drummer and main vocalist Don Henley to a huge roar from the stadium now in full voice.

Appropriately ‘Take It Easy’ was led vocally by Deacon Frey, son of Glenn Frey who passed. His father was co- founder of the Eagles and has been replaced by Vince Gill, a Country music giant who is a superb vocalist, a gifted guitarist and a hit songwriter to boot. This double replacement has enhanced the band’s line up by two guitarists and they now have a keyboard player too.  In between song announcements Don Henley said “We opened for the ‘Beach Boys’ in the old Wembley stadium forty five years ago. We are proud to be dinosaurs. Dinosaurs may be old but they leave big footprints.”

‘One of These Nights’ followed on and then he gave a hero’s welcome to Deacon Frey “who stepped up to the plate” and to Vince Gill who had the biggest boots to fill. He did, with ‘Take it to the Limit’ and we all approved the new signing. Vince also sang ‘Tequila Sunrise’ which typifies the laid back melodic Country Rock sound of The Eagles and the giant colourful desert backdrop completed the illusion.

This was another spellbinding moment for me, which as I looked around at the sea of faces with expressions of awe at the majesty of the sound coming from that stage, confirmed that it doesn’t get better than this at concert level.

Many times during their concert, guitarist Joe Walsh traded solos with 2nd guitar Stuart Smith whose tasteful guitar mastery got all eyes riveted on the giant side screens. Later they would trade iconic solos again in ‘Hotel California’ perhaps the most anticipated encore of all time from any band.

One hour into their set the famous song catalogue kept on unfolding. Each song marked a moment in the lives (or the concert t-shirts) of the many thousands of fans singing along or lost in the Wembley moment. Vince Gill has a beautiful melodic voice with which he kissed ‘New Kid in Town’ and ‘Lying Eyes.’  The latter song was perhaps his finest vocal and one which would have seen Glenn Frey proudly smiling down. Each band member got their showcase, which saw bassist Timothy Schmit revisit some of his ballads and main man Joe Walsh belt out his quirky songs and blazing guitar solos. 

Nowadays the band uses two drummers so that Don Henley can move to stage front and play a bit of rhythm guitar now and again. It was Don who raised the roof with ‘Heartache Tonight’ and had everyone up on their feet and dancing in the aisles. At 10.15pm they left the stage to wait for the crowd roar that would bring them back again.  The intro to the most famous song in the world ‘Hotel California’ had all the mobile flashlights coming on and the crowd jubilation factor was off the scale! Security had long given up telling fans not to film and I’m sure that no one left the stadium that night without at least having filmed a minute of this iconic anthem crowning a perfect concert. They were called back again but I was hearing their roars from outside Wembley, now hurrying back to walk to my hotel avoiding the throngs.

This dinosaur went to Wembley to see ‘The Eagles’ and was simply overjoyed speechless and spellbound when a bunch of fellow dinosaurs (by their own admission) held the stage for over two and a half hours and left a full house Wembley Stadium asking for more. More of what may I ask? You couldn’t have extracted one more ounce of musical energy from this band! They gave it their all and this after a long and illustrious career that even saw them split up for eight years and then reform again, proving that the sum of its parts is not greater than the whole ‘Eagles’.

If you were around in the mid-seventies and have not yet seen them, put them on your bucket list now because I guarantee that there are not too many concerts left in The Eagles’ tank. They were certainly not running on empty but there is a limit to the reserve a dinosaur tank can hold. Till next time, remember to breathe music, it’s better than air and good for the soul.


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