Following Glenn Frey’s untimely death in January 2016 at the age of 67, the future of The Eagles looked uncertain. After all, Frey led the Southern California band together with Don Henley and co-wrote most of their songs with him. So it was a fair question to ask whether anyone could step into his shoes. Last night, fans got some answers during The Eagles’ first regular live concert after Frey’s death, conducted at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles at part of The Classic West music festival.
Of course, to close observers it wasn’t much of a surprise. At the end of May, the Los Angeles Times had reported Deacon Frey, Glenn’s 24-year-old son, and country artist Vince Gill, one of Frey’s close friends, would join The Eagles to share responsibilities for replacing Frey.
“Bringing Deacon in was my idea,” Henley told the Times. “I think of the guild system, which in both Eastern and Western cultures is a centuries-old tradition of the father passing down the trade to his son, and to me, that makes perfect moral and ethical sense. The primary thing is I think Glenn would be good with it — with both of these guys. I think he’d go, ‘That’s the perfect way to do this.’ ”
Deacon added he grew up singing his father’s songs. “The first songs I learned on guitar were ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling.’ He was always very supportive and very encouraging of my music and my love for music.”
During the same interview, a beaming Gill commented, “In my mind, I always thought I’d have made a good Eagle…but in a million years, I never would have seen this coming. It’s pretty surreal. I turned 60 recently, and to get to be a part of this amazing legacy of songs, that’s the greatest part of all this for me.”
While Deacon’s and Gill’s participation in last night’s show had been announced, the appearance of another music artist was a surprise. Bob Seger, a long-time friend of Frey and a collaborator, joined the band to sing Heartache Tonight. The song choice was not a coincidence – Seger had co-written the tune with Henley, Frey and J.D. Souther and provided (non-credited) background vocals on the recording.
Following are a few clips showing Deacon Frey and Gill with the band. For the most part they are from other shows.
Tequila Sunrise featuring Vince Gill
Peaceful Easy Feeling featuring Deacon Frey
Heartache Tonight featuring Bob Seger
And then there is of course the ultimate signature Eagles tune, Hotel California, which was the first encore. This one actually is from Classic West.
While media coverage of last night’s show has been favorable, I’ve no doubt critical voices will emerge, questioning the motives behind the revival of The Eagles. After all, in the wake of Frey’s death, Henley himself had said during various interviews he thought this was the end of the band. Sure, one could take a cynical view and argue this would also mean the end of lucrative concert tours and merchandise, so it’s ultimately a money grab. I do see it a bit differently.
While I’m not naive and realize financial incentives are likely part of the equation here, especially in today’s music business where records no longer sell the way they used to, I also think it’s important to acknowledge The Eagles did not only consist of Henley and Frey. Let’s not forgot about Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit. If one member of a four-piece band is no longer around, this should not automatically seal the fate of the band.
Just like I thought it was perfectly fine for Pink Floyd to continue after they had parted ways with Roger Waters, I feel it’s okay for The Eagles to go on without Glenn Frey. Sure, he’ll be dearly missed and it’s big shoes to fill, especially for Deacon. But while the 24-year-old essentially still is an unproven music artist, he deserves a lot of credit for what must have been a high-pressure performance last night. Gill is the complete opposite. He’s had a 30-year-plus career with 19 studio albums and multiple Country Music Association and Grammy Awards – more than any other country male artist.
It remains to be seen whether Deacon Fry and Vince Gill will become permanent replacements for Glenn. For now, The Eagles are soaring again, which most fans will appreciate.
Sources: Wikipedia, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Setlist.fm, YouTube