On Black Friday evening, Eagles fans entered Dickies Arena to a stage shrouded by a gray curtain, as classic folk rock songs played low as the venue’s walk-in music.
It was an older crowd, and many audience members shared their personal experiences with the band over the last 50 years. Some remembered the late Glenn Frey, the Eagles guitarist who died in 2016, leaving drummer-turned-guitarist Don Henley at the band’s helm.
Others shared their excitement in seeing that country legend Vince Gill would be taking Frey’s place on stage that evening, lending his voice and string virtuosity to a band whose country spirit would lead a new wave of Southern rock in the 1970s.
Don Henley is still the backbone of the Eagles.
For others, it was Joe Walsh who got them to make the post-Thanksgiving trip to Fort Worth. Walsh joined the Eagles late in their existence after his time in James Gang and Barnstorm. He got there just in time to record with the band on Hotel California
— an album which will turn 50 itself in just a few short years.
Bass player Timothy B. Schmit left Poco to join the band as Randy Meisner’s replacement a year later as it toured the now-classic album the first time. He would do so for every subsequent iteration of the band.
The Eagles took flight on Friday.
Filling out the band’s sound for the evening were Scott F. Crago, who took over on drums since Henley came out from behind the kit in the ‘90s, and guitarist Steuart Smith, who took over guitars and harmonies when Don Felder was fired from the band in 2001. Will Hollis and Michael Thompson, who have played various instruments on tour with the band since that time, were also there.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was because it was the day after Thanksgiving or maybe it was because the tour had already been through North Texas last year. Whatever it was, there were many empty gray seats throughout all four levels of Dickies Arena even though the show wassold out. Though under-attendance may be disappointing for some, it certainly contributed to a more relaxed atmosphere as the start time approached.
It wasn't a full crowd, even tough the sho was sold out. Bt that was a good thing.
Regardless of how many were still in line at one of four merch booths at 8 p.m., a voice over the loudspeaker welcomed the audience, instructing fans to take their seats to not miss the start of the show.
Seven minutes later, a haunting guitar sounded as the audience settled in and the band members took their positions.
The music faded into thunderclaps. A neon sign reading “Hotel California” appeared in the darkness. The music returned, sparse and unsettling. A footman entered the stage to play a copy of Hotel California
Timothy B. Schmitt played bass for the Eagles on Friday.
Then, the curtain rose to find the Eagles launching into the title track of the album that made the band’s career, the album whose anniversary all in attendance were there to celebrate, and the song that has been an inescapable Southern rock epic since 1976 — “Hotel California.”
It was Smith who was first illuminated followed by Walsh and then Henley, who began the concert on the drums. As soon as Henley hit the song’s legendary chorus, all who called themselves Eagles for the evening stood in the spotlight.
The biggest cheers came as Walsh and Smith began dueling in the song’s bridge, with many screaming out Walsh’s name.
Glenn Frey was missed, but the band did him justice at Dickies Arena.
For the album and the set’s second song, Gill approached the front of the stage for “New Kid in Town,” and while the crowd was, of course, missing Frey in the moment, they roared to hear Gill absolutely nail the song’s first notes. By the time the harmony kicked in, there was little to separate Gill from Frey.
For “Life in the Fast Lane,” Henley came out from behind the drums to play against Walsh before taking to center stage. It was at this time that many in the audience finally rose to their feet after two songs, haunting and sad.
Henley would remain front and center for his song “Wasted Time”as Walsh moved to the keyboards. Halfway through the first, a 40-piece string orchestra, the Fort Worth Festival Orchestra, appeared behind the band as the audience acted as the choir.
Joe Walsh played some haunting riffs with the Eagles.
The symphony would stay illuminated onstage as Henley took his seat back behind the drums, and a woman in black entered the stage to flip the vinyl for the instrumental, “Waste of Time” (Reprise).
At its close, Walsh’s heavy licks together with Henley’s heavy hits filled the red-lot arena for “Victim of Love.”
With “Pretty Maids All in a Row," Walsh would have his first moment center stage, and everyone in the audience familiar with the album knew it and was cheering before the song even really started.
The Eagles soared on Friday in Fort Worth.
Despite Schmit being called in to take over for Meisner on songs like “Try and Love Again” in 1977, it was Gill who sang the song this night as Henley once again took to the stage with a guitar. Gill handled his role perfectly, and the audience cheered at his accomplishment.
Henley closed the night’s first set with Hotel California
’s swan song, “The Last Resort,” as a notable chorus of concertgoers sang to every word. Then, the screen behind the band grew dark with stars shining through, and the lights came up on the symphony. With them was a 22-member contingent of the Arlington A Cappella Choir dressed all in white, lending their angelic voices to the song’s climax.
As the album’s final notes drew to a close, the crowd rose for a standing ovation.
Less than an hour into the night, Henley addressed the audience for the first time for band introductions, letting the audience know that, back in his day, albums used to be just 40 minutes long. He then suggested that albums these days should be even shorter — a joke all the baby boomers in the audience liked.
Boomers were all about the Eagles' jokes on Friday.
In the end, the concert truly encapsulated the Eagles' career by foregrounding its most famous album and following it with hits from across its rocky existence.
The Eagles would return for a second set and encore of hits not just from the band’s history but from the individual members’ careers as well. The band welcomed Glenn Frey’s son, Deacon, to the stage for Eagles’ hits, “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Henley sang his mega-hit “Boys of the Summer,” and Walsh serenaded the audience with songs like “In the City” and “Rocky Mountain Way” from his solo career and “Funk #49” from his time with the James Gang.
As the audience members cheered for each individual who approached the front of the stage, it became clear that what people really remember and love about the Eagles really does depend on who your favorite member is and whose career you followed after they inevitably left the band.
For most of its 50 years, the Eagles have depended on greatness created by each of its members, but Hotel California
was and still represents that brief moment in time when the band proved greater than the sum of its parts.
Don Henley got fans excited on Friday.