At Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium on Saturday for the first night of the ambitious Classic West concert, the Eagles started their show as they had so many times before: standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the front of the stage to beautifully blend their voices a cappella on the bluegrassy 1980 arrangement of “Seven Bridges Road.” But there were some new faces in the mix.
One was longtime Eagles friend and country superstar Vince Gill. The other could have been mistaken for a ’70s-era hologram of band co-founder Glenn Frey, who died last year at age 67, but instead was the late Eagle’s 24-year-old son Deacon, admirably filling his dad’s massive shoes for the group’s first concert since his death.
“We are the Eagles from Los Angeles,” Joe Walsh said by way of (unnecessary) introduction following that opening number. “We’re back, and we’re back for our family, and you are part of our family. This one’s for you, Glenn. You’re in our hearts, and the music goes on. Let’s give a warm Eagles family welcome to Deacon Frey.”
Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour set, Frey was given the unenviable task of re-creating some of his dad’s most recognizable hits for the tens of thousands of fans who know them best, starting with his signature, “Take It Easy.”
It was an emotional start to the night for Eagles fans who might have expected to never hear these songs performed live again, given Don Henley calling the 2016 Grammy tribute to Frey “the final farewell” last year. “I don’t think you’ll see us performing again,” he said back in March 2016. “That was probably it.”
Henley echoed those sentiments Saturday night, hinting that The Classic West and East dates — which continues Sunday night (July 16) at Dodger Stadium with Fleetwood Mac headlining before hitting New York’s Citi Field on July 29-30 — were all about closure for the blockbuster band. “In case this is our last dance, we want to thank all the fans of Southern California,” he said.
And they were properly thanked throughout the night, with Frey and Gill trading off lead duties on Glenn’s biggest hits. Before launching into “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Deacon thanked the Eagles family — both on and off the stage — for their part in easing the pain of his dad’s untimely death. “This last couple of years have been pretty tough, and really the only remedy for something like that is love, and I just want to let you guys know: I’m really feeling it from y’all tonight,” he said to roaring applause. “Got all my uncs up here; they’ve got my back. You guys are my medicine tonight.” Deacon also handled lead vocals on the rocker “Already Gone,” while Gill brought his Nashville touch to “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Take It to the Limit” and “New Kid in Town.”
There was one more person who wanted to join in on the Glenn tribute: Fellow Detroiter Bob Seger — who met Frey as a backup singer in the 1960s — surprised the crowd to perform a song he co-wrote with the band, 1979’s “Heartache Tonight.” “This is for Glenn!” Seger hollered after Henley introduced him as “one of the most beloved figures in American rock and roll music.” Watch below:
“Heartache Tonight” was one of five Eagles songs to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 throughout their best-selling run — and they played all five, including their very first, 1974’s “Best of My Love,” which Henley noted didn’t come until four years into their career (“We were getting a little worried”). But there were plenty of hits to come for the group, and they played almost all of them in the 23-song set, including “One of These Nights,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and, during a two-part encore, “Hotel California” and “Desperado.” “It all started right here in Los Angeles 46 years ago,” Henley said early in the show. “Your love and your loyalty has kept it going all these years, and we appreciate you. We appreciate you very much. Glenn is with us tonight. Glenn is with us in spirit. And you’re here for the songs.”
Of course, the Eagles weren’t the only act to perform at Classic West day 1: The Doobie Brothers got things started with “Jesus Is Just Alright,” as the traffic-weary L.A. crowd filed into Dodger Stadium early Saturday evening. There were no special guests — though it almost seemed as if Michael McDonald had returned for “Takin’ It to the Streets,” given Patrick Simmons’ sound-alike vocals — but the band’s impressive roster of hits did the talking, with the one-two-three punch of “Black Water,” “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove” wrapping up a 13-song set.
Next up was Steely Dan, and while Donald Fagen was without musical partner Walter Becker — who fell ill before the show — he called up longtime associate Larry Carlton to seamlessly fill in on the group’s jazzy classic-radio staples, including “Hey Nineteen” and “Reeling in the Years.” A standout included “Dirty Work,” which Fagen referred to as a “minor hit, a sketchy hit” for the group. Since the 1972 cut was originally performed by erstwhile member David Palmer, Fagen enlisted “The Danettes” — a trio of big-voiced backup singers — to take over on lead vocals.