The Eagles review: peaceful, easy feeling at packed Philips Arena for 1st of two shows

Posted Saturday, October 21, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on Melissa Ruggieri's AJC Music Scene blog

Following Glenn Frey's surprise death, in early 2016,  Don Henley said after a Grammy tribute to Frey, the Eagles were finished touring. He didn't add "if hell freeze over."

Hell isn't frozen and the Eagles are back on the road again with two dates at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Friday night was sold out. Saturday still has tickets available at face value.

To fill in for Frey, they brought in two people: Frey's son Deacon and country legend Vince Gill.

Henley thanked the crowd for their support over 45 years and aware that many of his rock peers (and fans) are no longer around, noted with a wry smile, "All of us here, like you, are in extra innings. We're in overtime. We thank you for that. It's October. Let's play ball!"

But Henley is not big on heavy-handed sentimentality. There was no official tribute to Frey. He did introduce Deacon with a brief story about how Glenn would play music with Deacon in small clubs before 150 or so. "His first gig with us?" Henley said. "Dodger Stadium. 55,000 people. Hats off to you son."

Deacon thanked the crowd and band for their support before singing "Peaceful Easy Feeling," one of three times he held lead vocals. His youth - punctuated by a long dark mane akin to his dad's in the 1970s - truly made him stand out as a young pup among grizzly veterans. Deacon was respectful of his elders, not trying to outshine them. And while his voice is no carbon copy of his dad's, he sang "Take It Easy" and "Already Gone" ably and respectfully.

Deacon Frey looks a bit like his dad did in the 1970s. CREDIT: Ryan Fleisher

Gill handled most of the songs in which Frey or Randy Meisner sang lead in the originals and the crowd embraced him wholeheartedly. He generated the concert's first standing ovation 15 minutes in with a rousing "Take It To The Limit." Paradoxically, Gill is unassuming for a rock star and like Deacon, he let the star members of the band  - Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit - do most of the talking.

Vocally, Gill kept to similar beats as Frey but injected just enough of his own personality to keep it from turning into karaoke.

As is well known, the Eagles charge a lot of money to tap Boomer nostalgia, especially for those in the better seats. So they aim to please with still credible harmonies, strong percussion and superlative guitar work led by Walsh.

Not surprisingly, the 23-song set was packed with greatest hits and given how prevalent their catalog has become over the past four decades, even their non-singles would be recognizable to anyone with even a passing knowledge of FM rock radio. Most of the arrangements were similar to their studio versions so anyone singing along would not be caught off guard.

There were exceptions. They did fiddle with the opening of "Witchy Woman," throwing in some brass and opened "Hotel California" with a long, plaintive trumpet solo.

And while Henley's solo hits were left untouched, the more animated Walsh received far more love, with three of his solo hits and two James Gang classics "Funk #49"  and "Walk Away" in the mix.

Smartly, the set list was crafted to gradually amp up the energy until everyone rose for "Heartache Tonight" during the second hour. Walsh, 69, provided a glint of his signature humor, noting how he once sang the sardonic "Life's Been Good" at a karaoke bar and someone not recognizing him said the "real" Walsh would have sung it better.

It was hard not to love Joe Walsh's passion during the Eagles concert Friday night at Philips Arena. CREDIT: Ryan Fleisher

Fortunately, Walsh's voice is as strong as ever. Henley's? Not so much but even if he's lost some depth, he can still craft the proper pathos, especially on the night's second encore closer "Desperado."

Deacon Frey and Joe Walsh on stage at the Eagles concert at Philips Arena October 20, 2017. CREDIT: Ryan Fleisher
CREDIT: Ryan Fleisher
After a professional, hit-packed two hours and 15 minutes, Vince Gill and Don Henley walk off the stage at Philips Arena October 20, 2017. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.