By: Dan Grant
On Wednesday November 6th in Toronto, I saw the entity known as the Eagles play in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. In attendance were myself, my mother, 20,000 other white people and my drunken hooligan of a brother (and Same Page contributor) Patrick. I can’t lie, I also consumed my fair share of beverages both before and during the show, but brother Patrick was in rare form. A musician himself, he appreciates the Eagles on a variety of levels.
A little background.
As kids, we were musically blessed in the sense that our parents were ‘young’. They were cool. Our Dad loved Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, The Tragically Hip and later, Pearl Jam and the Rolling Stones. Our Mom loved Electric Light Orchestra, Meat Loaf and the Guess Who. Their tastes crossed over in a few places, most notably Bruce Springsteen but also, in a little California band known as the Eagles.
We spent a lot of time in the car when we were kids, in the car back and forth between our parents two homes, to and from various extra-curricular activities and in the car on the great road trips our Mom took us on – when I was just ten, we drove from Toronto to Kamloops, British Columbia, in just 5 days.
A staple on these rides was the 1994 album Hell Freezes Over, a live recording of the Eagles reunion tour, with the album title serving as a joke relating to the band’s nuclear 1981 breakup. The band recorded four new songs for the album as well, which served as the first four tracks. This was our introduction to the Eagles and we really didn’t vary much from it. We listened to some of Don Henley’s solo material (Building the Perfect Beast anyone?) as well, but that was our core. We listened to it over and over. We knew the banter, the four different lead vocalists, the nuances of the live performances – like I said, it was a staple. So seeing the Eagles live for the first time was something special, something that despite all the positive reviews and depth of material, actually blew both of us away.
That, and the fact that we were quite drunk, led to some hilarity during the show, which I really thought I should share. In bold are the song titles that were played during the set. I’ve included my thoughts, along with the entertaining and sometimes poignant ramblings of a pleasantly drunk brother.
The show opens on the largest stage I’ve ever seen. Don Henley and Glen Frey sit front and centre with acoustic guitars – the implication here is clear. WE are the Eagles. Everything is built around us. Fair enough!
Pat: There are really a lot of white people here. I hope they don’t do that clap-along thing.
Me: What do you mean?
Pat: You know what I mean. The forced clapping white people do at concerts. It always happens. It’s forced, it usually dies off quickly, but I find that at these shows with older bands, the old people can really keep it up!
Later in the same song:
Pat: These guys have musicians off-stage! There is a mandolin player somewhere! What, you can’t share your giant stage Henley? SHOW US THE MANDOLIN PLAYER!
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Before song 2, Bernie Leadon is introduced. An original Eagles member and excellent guitarist, he’s also a former member of the Flying Burrito Brothers. He sticks around for the next three songs, which he co-wrote, and absolutely slays.
Pat: This guy played with Gram Parsons! He is also much better at the guitar than either of those guys.
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Pat: Witchy Woman autocorrects to Whitby Woman in my phone! I gotta tweet this.
Me: What song?
Pat: Witchy Woman!
Me: Oh, Witch-ay Woman. Gotcha.
Glenn Frey introduces bassist Timothy B. Schmit by stating that one of his favourite bands of the era was a band called Poco, of which Schmit had been a member. The irony is that founding Eagles bassist Randy Meisner was the bassist for Poco until he left to form the Eagles and Schmit replaced him. Meisner was ejected from the Eagles in 1978 and Schmit replaced him again. Schmit is still rocking small-of-the-back length hair and rips a fantastic harmonica solo to open the song.
Pat: Glenn Frey’s favourite band at the time was Poco? That band was the terrible scraps of Buffalo Springfield! No Young or Stills! Come on Frey!
Me: Yeah. Well at least he doesn’t look like Herman Munster now or anything. Oh wait…
The last track from the Desperado album; the Eagles absolutely crush this track. I have linked to it. Listen and imagine a large group of excellent vocalists harmonizing it perfectly. It is at this point I realized I was watching something special.
Pat: Oh man! They have nine guys harmonizing on stage. Nine! (A quick examination reveals there are six) These guys aren’t going to play Desperado now. However, they are playing absolutely random cuts from albums. This is anarchy!
The Best of My Love
Pat: How come they didn’t introduce Joe Walsh? He’s been out here for like three songs now – they introduced everyone else! YOU FORGOT JOE WALSH, GLEN!… ah. He can’t hear me from up here, can he?
Pat: You know, I’m really proud of all these white people for not clapping!
Pat: This song is the white-people-clapping apocalypse. Look at the old guy behind us. He’s not even enjoying it.
Me: (He wasn’t)
One of These Nights
Take It to the Limit
There are actually nine guys harmonizing now. Possibly more. There are also five keyboard players and four guitar players. This song was the end of the first set and was a fantastic surprise, as it was normally a Randy Meisner led song, and he is no longer with the band.
Pat: MEISNER! OH YEEEEAH!!!
Pretty Maids All in a Row
I Can’t Tell You Why
Earlier in the show, bassist Timothy B. Schmit was introduced. He sings in an octave that only dogs and babies can hear. He was featured as lead vocalist on two tracks on Hell Freezes Over and Pat and I got endless entertainment out of trying to sing as high as he does. Check it out.
Pat: Schmit! My word, he can actually sing like that! Schmiiiiiiit!
New Kid in Town
Love Will Keep Us Alive
This is the other Schmit song, and the one that Pat and I sang the most. Track 2 on Hell Freezes Over, we debated whether or not it would be played, ultimately deciding that it was a long shot. This was a big moment.
Pat: This is really happening right now.
Pat: I’m pretty sure if you looked up easy rock in the dictionary, this would just play.
Pat: I take it back. THIS is the white people clapping apocalypse. Dear god, look at them go.
In the City (Joe Walsh song)
Walsh takes over lead vocals, which makes sense, as it’s his song. I told Pat that solo Walsh was being played on this tour instead of solo Henley (normally an Eagles standard) and he was distressed.
Pat: Goddamn you Walsh! Look at that guitar! (the guitar is a red Gibson, covered in sparkles) What a wanker!
(But Pat is smiling.)
Life’s Been Good (Joe Walsh song)
Glen Frey finally introduces Joe Walsh before this song, after the rest of the band. The highlights:
Timothy B. Schmit – ‘He sings up high and he plays down low!’
Don Henley – ‘The finest singer-songwriter I’ve ever had the privilege to know’ (Henley received a standing ovation = more white people clapping. He also managed to look like a bored, vaguely threatening version of Colonel Sanders throughout much of the evening)
Joe Walsh – ‘And now, a man who is very familiar to law enforcement and hotel staff the world over…’
The Long Run
Funk #49 (James Gang cover)
Life in the Fast Lane
Pat: Oh man, we’re getting to the nitty-gritty now! What do you think they’ll play?
Me: Well, Hotel California, Take It Easy, probably another Joe Walsh song and definitely Desperado.
Pat: No way they play Desperado. They already played the reprise!
Me: I will bet you… (thinks about it) FOUR dollars that they will play Desperado.
Pat: You’re on!
Pat: Oh man. Here it is! (stands up) Come on old white people! Let’s stand up! (Nobody stands, except the woman beside me, who may or may not be a ‘lady of the night’.)
Pat turns around, sees the lack of response and begins to sit back down.
Pat: FUCK IT, IT’S HOTEL CALIFORNIA! LET’S DO THIS! (We all stand up and dance for the remainder of the evening. It’s a concert people. Less clapping, more dancing).
Take It Easy
Me: Two for two!
Pat: Still no Desperado!
Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh song)
Me: Three for three! It’s happening!
Pat: Goddamn Joe Walsh. They couldn’t have played Heart of the Matter? I’m going to the bathroom. (leaves)
The song is quite long, with Walsh taking an extended guitar solo. I can see Pat waiting down by the doorway back to the section we’re sitting in as there’s a large crowd of people standing and blocking his way.
Pat: Everybody does the hockey wait! (At a Leaf game, you have to wait for a whistle to return to your seat.) It’s not a Leaf game people! Go where you want!
Pat: They did it. The bastards did it.
The Eagles play a fantastic version of Desperado finish and begin to bow.
Pat: One more tune! Play Is It True! Play New York Minute! You can’t cost me four bucks and then just leave like this!!! Damn you Henley! Damn you Frey!
The Eagles everybody. I only clapped a few times, I promise.