The Eagles Live in Denver: Different, But the Same

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Don Henley, Coors Field, Denver, CO, June 28, 2018 (Photo: Mark Brown)

“Good morning!” Joe Walsh bellowed in a suffocating Denver baseball stadium on the hottest day of the year. He got a relieved laugh from the nearly 50,000 sweaty fans who endured a 105-degree high to be there.

The Eagles had just opened their June 28 concert with “Seven Bridges Road,” the lush vocal harmonies cutting through the muggy night. It was the band’s first return to Colorado, a place pivotal to all their careers, since the passing of co-founder Glenn Frey. And now here were those songs, back again, sounding exquisite in the twilight with the help of Vince Gill and Glenn’s son Deacon.

It definitely wasn’t the same. Yet it really wasn’t that much different.

Full disclosure: This seemed like a bad idea. I nodded in agreement when Don Henley told the Washington Post in 2016, “I don’t see how we could go out and play without the guy who started the band.”

Two years and a lot of healing later, the band Frey and Henley started stood on the Coors Field stage. It brought Eagles music to fans who never thought they’d hear it again.

Deacon Frey, Coors Field, Denver, CO, June 28, 2018 (Photo: Mark Brown)

To experience Deacon Frey singing his father’s signature hits is surreal in a good way, like going down a weird YouTube rabbit hole to 1974, right down to the long hair and scruffy beard. Henley said a few words early on in memory of his late partner, but then it was on.

Overthinking things, though, is for suckers. As the band unreeled hit after hit in their 23-song set (along with satisfying deep cuts like “Those Shoes”), all anyone was thinking about was singing along. The band sounded vital and strong and the crowd was thrilled to be there.

It’s amazing that the musicians can make it seem so effortless when you can see with your own eyes how demanding it is. Gill’s crack guitar work is another tool in the arsenal, superbly complementing Steuart Smith’s fretwork.

“I’m going to sing one more my dad used to sing, if that’s OK,” Frey teased the crowd. But Frey isn’t just a replacement voice; he and Smith dueled fiercely during the guitar solo in “Already Gone.”

Maybe some of that effortless feel comes from a loosening of the rules. While the band’s shows used to slavishly recreate the studio albums, they breathe easier now. Not every note is the same; the reworked “Witchy Woman” from “The History of the Eagles” tour still sounds fresh. And when it comes to the guitar solos, they’re more inclined to let Walsh off the leash to great effect.

Timothy B Schmit, Coors Field, Denver, CO, June 28, 2018 (Photo: Mark Brown)

Gill did a lot of the heavy lifting on “Take It to the Limit” (he’s the third vocalist in the band to sing it after Randy Meisner and Glenn Frey), “Lyin’ Eyes” and “New Kid in Town.” Henley’s voice remains a force of nature, strong and sure on “One of These Nights” and the aforementioned “Those Shoes.”

Related: Our exclusive interview with longtime Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk on the making of Hotel California

It’s an odd phenomenon that the band is filling bigger rooms than ever. It may be Eagles Version 5.0, but it still works.

The Eagles hedged their bets on filling a stadium by teaming up with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band as their opener. Sadly, a lot of Parrotheads were still trying to get through security when Buffett started his 18-song set, but most were in place at the end when it mattered—“Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty” and, you know, that song.

The Eagles 2018 tour continues through Oct. 20. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

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Mark Brown

Mark Brown

Mark Brown's misguided youth and decision to buy music instead of food in college led to a life covering the music industry. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orange County Register, Rocky Mountain News, San Francisco Chronicle, Trouser Press, Addicted to Noise, MSN Entertainment, Harp and countless newspapers worldwide.
Mark Brown
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