A cold, brisk winter wind pushed through downtown Des Moines as 12,000 fans poured into the sold-out Wells Fargo Arena for the Eagles’ Hotel California Tour on November 18th. People came from all over Iowa and parts of the Midwest to catch a glimpse of these legendary artists as they performed an array of their hit songs.
As I climbed the stairs to enter the arena, I saw jam-packed lines at the merchandise tables while fans picked up their memorabilia posters and t-shirts before grabbing their seat for the show.
Once inside the arena, the stage was encompassed in a dark curtain. Most everyone was sitting in their seats speculating as to what would happen, hoping their favorite song would be played and simply reminiscing and chatting; thankful to be around their friends and family and witnessing such talented individuals grace the stage.
When the lights in the arena dimmed, at the far end of the stage, a blue neon light, with the words Hotel California flickered and then helped illuminate an old record player. The sight of the neon Hotel California sign sparked the crowd’s anticipation and screams erupted from the audience. Silence quickly fell upon us as an old man wearing a long black cloak over a vintage bellhop uniform appeared on the opposite side of the stage from the record player.
Ominous thunder played and I can only assume it was the Nightman who slowly and meticulously crossed the stage with a nearly pristine Hotel California vinyl record in his hands. Gently blowing off the dust, he cautiously placed the record on the player and the song “Hotel California” began to play as the curtains rose and the Eagles appeared. You could barely hear the beginning of the song over the cheering. But oh, those first few chords, how they transport you back in time and ignite your soul. There really isn’t anything like hearing those notes in person.
The Eagles performed the entirety of the “Hotel California” album in the original order. It was during “Wasted Time” that the Interstate 80 Philharmonic slowly rose from below the stage. It was a very subtle transition; one that did not detract from the Eagles but added just enough flare and enhancement to their performance throughout the night.
When it was time to flip the record over to side B so “Victim of Love” could be played, a woman in a black dress with a black veil slowly crossed the stage to complete the task at hand; it almost seemed as if she was floating with her graceful walk. It was during “The Last Resort,” as the orchestra rose again, that the Des Moines Choral Society made their initial appearance on stage.
Once “Victim of Love” was finished, Don Henley joked that it concluded the “Hotel California” portion of the show as albums use to only be 40 minutes long back in the day and perhaps, they should be again. Chalk it up to him being “old and bitter” (his words not mine). It was also during this time that Henley introduced many of the people on stage, including Erica Swindell, their lead violinist and concertmaster.
The band took a short 20-minute break and announced they’d play everything else they know once they changed into their work clothes.
“Seven Bridges Road” was the first song played upon their return. Right after, special guest Deacon Frey, the son of the renowned Glenn Frey (one of the founders of the Eagles who passed away in January 2016) was welcomed on stage. Deacon played through “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and then, as a tribute to his father was given (an enhanced photograph portrayed on the large screen behind the band), Deacon exited the stage.
After “One of These Nights,” Henley introduced Steuart Smith. Everyone shouted “Steu” “Steu” and Henley jested that he used to think people were booing but then realized they were just saying “Steu.” He then introduced the rest of the band ending with its newest member, Vince Gill, who also received an astounding shout out from the audience.
With the orchestra playing, Gill sang “Take It to the Limit” and then “Witchy Woman.” Gill can really hit those higher notes and has proven that he belongs with the Eagles. The harmony that exists between them is pure. Gill is definitely a great asset.
It was time for Joe Walsh to shine, and did he ever, with his song “In the City.” Walsh then went over to the keyboards for “I Can’t Tell You Why.” He talked to the audience for a bit; he’s got jokes too and made everyone laugh when he said, “I had a lot more fun being 20 in the ‘70s than being 70 in the ‘20s.” It was at this point that “Life’s Been Good” was played.
The Eagles ended their set with “Heartache Tonight.” The cameras spanned the audience; everyone was standing and clapping. A quick exit was had. Not the kind like most performs do leaving you wonder if an encore is going to take place. With the Eagles, you knew one was coming. And it wasn’t just one or two songs; nope, they are devoted to their fans.
They played four songs during their encore performance: “Rocky Mountain Way,” “Desperado,” “Already Gone,” and “Best of My Love.” During “Rocky Mountain Way” a filter was placed over Walsh so when projected on the big screen, it looked as though he and his guitar were made of fire. Deacon Frey made a second appearance and assisted in the performance of the encore song, “Already Gone.”
The Eagles have recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, and during the show, they thanked their fans for supporting them and sticking by their side. Fifty years is a long time in the music industry. I only wish I could have seen the Eagles perform back in the day too.
Extra tour dates have been added in 2023, with four of those being in California. They may not have the same level of energy as they once did, but their voices, musical precision, and stamina make up for that. They are a band that should be seen at least once during your lifetime. Now is that time.