By the Way

Eagles fly high at first Gulf Coast show in four years with help from Deacon Frey and Vince Gill

The Eagles returned to New Orleans on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, for the band's first show on the Gulf Coast in four years.
The Eagles returned to New Orleans on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, for the band's first show on the Gulf Coast in four years. Courtesy Eagles

It has been only four years since the Eagles last played the Gulf Coast. But for fans, that may seem like a lifetime ago.

When founding member Glenn Frey died in January of 2016, the chances of Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit making any type of music again, much less embarking on a massive tour, seemed highly unlikely if not impossible. The hopes of hearing the Eagles live again seemingly had died with Frey.

But that was then.

On Wednesday, the Eagles returned to the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans for an almost three-hour set that paid tribute to Frey's legacy but did so without clinging to the ghosts of the past.

Frey's spot in the Eagles is now occupied and represented by his son Deacon Frey and by country music legend Vince Gill. And as a longtime fan of both the Eagles and Gill, Wednesday's marathon show is one I will not soon forget.

When I last saw the Eagles, the band had reunited for the "Hell Freezes Over Tour." I remember marveling over the band opening with "Hotel California," complete with Henley on vocals and drums.

I had a similar feeling Wednesday when the band hit the stage with the harmony-heavy cover of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," an acoustic southern rocker written about some bridges outside of Montgomery, Alabama. The laid-back arrangement set the tone for the night — a slow burn that built to a frenzy by the time the band played "Hotel California" during a three-song encore.

Everyone got some time in the spotlight — Deacon Frey, looking stunningly like his late father during the "Hotel California" era," took a turn behind the mic on country rockers such as "Take It Easy," "Already Gone" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling," making a humble tribute to his dad and the band's fans.

While there's no replacing Glenn Frey, Gill was a perfect choice to honor the late singer-songwriter. He will be the first to tell you that he is and always will be a fan of the band. His natural tenor and excellent guitar chops fit in perfectly with the Eagles.

Gill got plenty of time on lead vocals, from "Tequila Sunrise" and "Lyin' Eyes" to the Randy Meisner hit "Take It To The Limit." For fans of the country music superstar, and there were plenty in New Orleans, it was a real treat to watch him perform his hit "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away" with the Eagles as his backing band.

The band paid tribute to New Orleans, covering the Fats Domino classic "Walking To New Orleans" complete with horns.

The highlight of the night, at least for this Eagles fan, was when Gill sang the lead vocals on the band's cover of Tom Waits' "Ol' 55," a deep cut and fan favorite from the 1974 album "On The Border."

The Eagles played a lot of hits Wednesday night — a lot of hits. And there's a good chance if you attended the show, you left with that satisfying feeling you had heard your favorite Eagles song if not your favorite top 10 or 20 Eagles songs.