REVIEW: The Eagles bring ‘Hotel California’ and more to Chase Center


The Eagles, courtesy Ron Koch.

SAN FRANCISCO — For a band that put out only seven studio albums—six of those during the 1970s—The Eagles have retained a huge measure of popularity and fan love. Those who ventured to San Francisco Saturday night for the second performance of a two-night stand at Chase Center knew what they wanted, and they got it: a song-by-song performance of the classic 1976 mega-selling album Hotel California, plus 19 other big hits.

With the Eagles, you know what you’re getting, literally. They’ve played almost exactly the same set of 28 songs at each of their concert stops on this current Hotel California Tour.

And while short on spontaneity and surprises, Saturday night’s three-hours-plus show was long on great playing and, at times, spectacular singing. It’s exactly what you would expect from a band that’s been playing together, on and off, for 50 years.

Anyone reading this knows the songs: “Hotel California,” “Take It Easy,” “One of These Nights,” “Life In The Fast Lane,” “Lyin’ Eyes.” At one point Don Henley told the crowd, “We’re going to play everything we know.” And while that wasn’t quite true—later songs like “Get Over It” or “How Long,” for instance, didn’t get an airing—all the biggest songs got faithful treatments.

The only non-megahits played on this night were a few of the deeper cuts from Hotel California. Two of them, “Wasted Time” (complete with orchestral reprise) and “Try and Love Again,” were high points in the set, with two Eagles “newcomers,” Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, handling the lead vocals.

Gill, of course, has had his own well-established career in bluegrass and country, both solo and in bands like Pure Prairie League. His smooth voice, higher than that of Eagles founding member Glenn Frey (who died in 2016) took on lead vocals on some Frey standards like “New Kid in Town,” “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Tequila Sunrise.” His voice isn’t as distinctive as Frey’s, but it’s smoother; Gill acquitted himself well.

So too, to a lesser extent, did Deacon Frey, Glenn’s son, who handled  his father’s other trademark songs, including “Take It Easy” and “Already Gone.”  He sounded more like his dad than Gill, but not eerily so, and Deacon Frey made contributions with a few guitar solos, as well.

Vocally, Henley and bassist Timothy B. Schmit clearly sound older now (they’re 74 and 73, respectively), but still strong and clear. Schmit got only one showcase, “I Can’t Tell You Why,” but his backup vocals shape the Eagles’ sound to a significant degree, and they came through all evening.

Henley’s standouts were predictable. “Desperado,” “Hotel California” and his solo song “The Boys of Summer” were probably the strongest. And several songs got sympathetic orchestral support from what Henley called the “San Francisco Freeway Philharmonic,” local classical musicians conducted by Jim Ed Norman, who did the orchestrations for the Eagles’ Desperado and Hotel California albums.

Instrumentally, of course, guitars dominated the night, with Joe Walsh, Gill (a talented lead player) and touring guitarist Steuart Smith, a Nashville veteran, all carrying the load, helped out by Deacon Frey and even Henley, when the latter wasn’t drumming.

Walsh, whose goofy persona played against the genial but businesslike demeanor of the rest of the band, let his slide guitar carry his solo hit “Rocky Mountain Way” and added flavor to many other songs, notably “Victim of Love.”

The surprises on this night were few and relatively low key. It was cool to see Grand Ol Opry member Gill trading electric licks with Walsh on the old James Gang nugget “Funk #49,” and an extended version of “Seven Bridges Road” had those two trading off acoustic solos. Less cool was Walsh not playing slide on “Life’s Been Good,” a song spruced up—on record, at least—by his distinctive bottleneck.

But for the folks who (almost) filled the Chase Center for this concert—rescheduled from April 2020 due to COVID-19—it didn’t matter. And Henley made sure to let the audience know the band appreciates that support.

“In case we never pass this way again, I want to thank you for 50 years of support,” he said to thunderous cheers.


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(1) Comment

  1. Paul Lane son

    My husband and I were at the concert. It was the best live performance for me. My husband said that it was as good as when he saw Jimmy Hendrix live at the Fillmore. Paul and Maureen Larson in Santa Rosa.

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