Review: The Eagles at Leeds Arena

IT doesn’t seem like five years since The Eagles last performed at Leeds Arena but, yes, it was the summer of 2014 when they performed here to a full house. Leeds must be popular with the band as it is one of only of six venues in the UK where they are performing on this year’s tour.

Much has happened to the band in the last five years since they were last here – notably the sad death of Glen Frey in 2016, one of the original band members from the 70s. Glen, along with his writing partner Don Henley, was responsible for many of their greatest hits over the years.

After Glen’s death, Don Henley said the Eagles would never play live again. However, he quickly reversed the decision less than a year later, perhaps on discovering that Glenn’s son Deacon is more than a chip off the old block. “We’re gonna carry on the legacy of Glenn,” Don told the capacity crowd at Leeds, “and we’re mighty proud to have his son Deacon up here with us.” Deacon proves the apple clearly didn’t fall far from the tree. Perfectly at home on the biggest of stages Deacon, 26, took lead vocals for Take It Easy and gave a performance that was surprisingly impressive considering his presumed inexperience of playing to crowds of this size.

Also new to the band is country music star Vince Gill who takes over the singing duties on the high-note hitting Take It To The Limit, and restores the song closer to its high-pitched original like previous bandmate Randy Meisner used to sing it.

“We’re gonna play two and a half hours of music for you!” vows Henley. A great roar from the audience. Nobody’s complaining. That is what the audience have come to see and hear. And all the old classics are there starting with Seven Bridges Road, from their 1980 Eagles Live album. Gorgeous five-part sun-drenched West Coast harmonies begin this musical marathon. As Don says: “No fireworks, no choreography. Just a bunch of guys playing guitars. It seems to have worked out for us.” And that is what the audience came to see and lap it up.

Hit after hit followed – One of these Nights, Lying Eyes, New Kid in Town, Heartache Tonight, The Long Run, Love Will Keep Us Alive, Funk #49, Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Tequila Sunrise, and Already Gone. We were also treated to solo hits from Don Henley with The Boys of Summer and Joe Walsh with Rocky Mountain Way and Life’s Been Good about which he said, “If I’d have known I would still be singing this after forty years, I would never have written it in the first place”, much to the merriment of the audience.

So the concert ended but the band were back in a couple of minutes to provide the much anticipated encore. And did they play Hotel California? Oh yes. There’d be a mutiny if this seven-minute rock staple wasn’t trotted out in all its glory. Categorically this was The Eagles’ Bohemian Rhapsody moment. I just don’t understand those critics who let cynicism and moans about radio overplay cloud this masterpiece. It is probably my favourite Eagles number. “California” opened with a piercing solo trumpeter who set the scene for the sheer stench of colitas stinking out the joint. And Joe Walsh and fellow guitarist Steuart Smith put on a masterclass of six string virtuosity during this classic number.

Best of My Love ended this musical journey, but it was Desperado the penultimate number in their encore set, which in my opinion was this gig’s true finale. It was tear jerking, melancholy and hit the soul in every possible way. This 1973 classic is, according to Henley, when he and partner in crime Frey “became a songwriting partnership.” And what a fitting way to end a marvellous evening of classic country rock! The 13,700 people in the audience went away having witnessed a marvellous two and a half hours of great harmonies and superb musicianship. A night I will remember for a long time!

John Burland