Two weeks ago the legendary 1970s country rock band The Eagles kicked off their latest tour at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The band was short lead singer and guitarist Glenn Frey, who passed away in 2016, but the stage was still brimming with fantastic musicians. Deacon Frey, Glenn’s 24-year-old son, and successful country singer-songwriter Vince Gill alternated filling the gap Glenn left behind. Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit were all there too.
In addition to the classic players, Steuart Smith joined the tour as co-lead guitarist with the inimitable Joe Walsh. The two took turns riffing and shredding on their fingerboards, but Walsh cannot be beat. He was the unexpected highlight of the show. I did not know much about Walsh before the concert, outside of what I learned in The Eagles documentary on Netflix (which I highly recommend for anyone interested in music history or the music business). But during the Indianapolis concert it became clear what a true guitar-artiste and magnetic performer he is. The tame, older crowd started to let loose, dancing, hooting, and hollering during Walsh’s original tune “Life’s Been Good,” a new favorite of mine. He gave guest guitarist Smith plenty of time to shine, including on “Hotel California,” but every time Walsh took the lead the crowd erupted. The best part about Walsh’s performance was his sheer delight in playing. In the documentary he repeatedly said that he never wanted to be the lead singer or songwriter, he just loved to play cool guitar for Henley and Frey’s songs. It is clear he still loves it as much today as he did decades ago.
Don Henley, however, was not quite as enthusiastic. His voice still sounded great…on the songs that he sang. It seemed like he was not feeling well. He let Deacon and Gill sing several of his original songs and at one point he even left the stage. Henley also shared drumming duty with a backup player. The concert was a real family affair. In addition to Frey’s son joining the ranks of his father’s famous friends, Henley’s son Will played backup guitar. However, the band never mentioned this during the concert.
Overall, it was a very good concert. In fact, it was the biggest I have ever attended. The Bankers Life Fieldhouse holds 20,000 and it looked darn near close to full. The only improvements would have been better seats (my mom and I were basically hovering 200 feet above the stage), a little more pep in Don Henley’s step, and for Glenn Frey to be there. But I guess I’ll just have to “Get Over It.”