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Live Review : The Eagles – Manchester Arena

The Eagles ‘flew’ into Manchester last night to a packed house, once again dispelling the myth that old rockers should just give up and retire.  After the opening number, drummer and vocalist, Don Henley told the captivated crowd that they were here for two and a half hours of non-stop live music, and to be fair, they delivered.

The current formula is clearly one of starting with the slower songs and building up to the bigger and faster paced numbers, and it is one that worked in my opinion. In previous years Hotel California, their undoubtedly most famous hit, was always early on in the show and I never liked this, as, if you arrived late you missed out on it. 

The slow renditions of Take It Easy and One Of These Nights were great songs to start things moving along and the sound in the Arena was top drawer. As someone who moans a lot about the acoustics in large venues, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the acoustic guitars translated and the vocals were a warm glassy amplification of the wonderful harmonies The Eagles are known to deliver. 

Objectively speaking however, it was impossible not to notice how the loss of Glen Frey in 2016 made a big impact on the night. The band to me are like a yacht that has had a hole punched in the side, that has been repaired with other materials, and now the direction is just a little bit off course. The hole in this case was filled by the inclusion of replacement musicians, the most notable of which were country and western singer Vince Gill and Deacon Frey. 

During the songs usually voiced by Glen Frey it was impossible not to feel that this was one of those situations whereby ‘Carlsberg don’t do Eagles tribute bands but if they did….’ It would be wrong to suggest it was not still fantastic, especially as one of the two vocalists is Deacon Frey, the son of Glen. His inclusion on this tour is far more than just a sympathetic hand up. He more than held his own both on guitar and vocally with The Eagles, and that is no mean feat. When he spoke to the crowd to express his thanks, he announced that he would be singing the next song and that it is one ‘his dad used to sing’ and if that didn’t bring a small tear in your eye or put a lump in your throat then you have far too much in common with black hearted Simpsons character Monty Burns.

Of course, the missing Glen Frey was only really obvious on the songs he famously sang. The one thing about The Eagles was that they always had an abundance of great singers and always took turns at singing, so on the big hits of the others such as Timothy B. Schmitt, Joe Walsh and Don Henley it was less of a musical jolt.

One thing I always liked about this band was that they played each other’s solo project songs.  Tonight was no exception when they also played Vince Gill’s own number, Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin Away, which was not only a good track but a classy touch by the band. I would also go as far as saying some of the Joe Walsh solo tracks, such as Rocky Mountain Way and Life’s Been Good, were high points of the show. 

Don Henley summed the whole thing up well when he announced that the band ‘didn’t do choreography or fireworks, they were just a bunch of guys with guitars singing songs.’ And what a great night that basic formula made. The music was top drawer, the evening was very sentimental due to the tributes paid to Glen Frey, the lighting was good as was the big screen, although the footage was heavily processed with a trippy delayed effect which looked like, well, like everything looked to me at the end of the 1980’s and the early 1990’s.

The Eagles never had a wild, Keith Moon-esqe drummer, but they do have Joe Walsh who could go pound for pound with the best of them in his day. I doubt that given his age he was throwing TV’s out of the windows of the Lowry Hotel last night, but one of the highlights of the evening was where he tried to recall a time he was in Manchester and remembered that he ‘stayed up one night for two days!’ He said the police report suggested that he had a great time in Manchester and that is always nice to hear.