There are albums that transcend their genre and become legendary records that rightfully take their place is music history. They withstand the test of time and move listeners upon their release date, and for decades to come. “Hotel California” is one of those albums: a phenomenal record from opening track to closing; no filler tunes, just a straight through 45-minute auditory journey that holds you captive.
Although “Hotel California” was released in 1976, I didn’t discover it until 1988 when my big brother brought the vinyl home and played it at full volume. It was a strange choice for a metal head like him – a big change from his Black Sabbath or Metallica albums – but I suppose that piqued my curiosity even more. I can’t remember how many times I snuck into his room while he was out of the house and played that record over and over – too many times to count – but I can tell you my first air guitar and butter knife drumming solos both happened while listening to it.
As you can guess, I was pretty ecstatic to be able to see this album performed live, and the crazy lines wrapped around Pechanga Arena told me I was not the only person feeling that way. Never have I seen the parking lot of this venue so packed so early in the evening, and never have I seen so many different generations of music lovers in line for the same show.
There were so many different types of people waiting, each with a unique story or memory that was somehow tied to this one album. One couple told me about hearing “Hotel California” for the first time together on one of their first dates. A bit later I overheard a father explaining to his teenage son how iconic the guitar solo on the opening track is. By the time I made it into the venue, my excitement level reached new heights; it was so amazing to see the room so packed and it was as if you could feel everyone’s energy around.
All of the excitement paused for a brief, anxious silence as the lights slowly dimmed, only to erupt in enthusiastic cheers as a blue-tinted neon sign that read “Hotel California” lit up on the curtain of the cloaked stage. A warming spotlight accompanied a man who slowly crossed the stage carrying a vinyl copy of “Hotel California” to a turntable located on the left side of the stage, then delivered the most amazing opening to any show I have ever seen.
The cloak lifted and as the first iconic guitar chords rang out, the room was instantaneously changed. I’ve witnessed spontaneous sing-alongs at shows before, but nothing like this! People were humming along, even to the instrumental parts; it was magical! A woman shouted, “Oh my God! He’s on the drums!” and it made me smile because I understood that feeling. All I kept thinking before the show was, “Please, please let me see Don Henley on drums during the first three songs!”
The sing-along continued through “New Kid in Town” and I am hoping my out of tune vocals were masked by everyone else’s singing, but it is really hard not to partake in the fun. It was truly mind blowing to see so many fans losing themselves so completely in the music; a strong testament to the greatness of the Eagles.
The rest of the show was just as magical as the beginning. They took us through the entire “Hotel California” album and included an orchestra for “Wasted Time” (original and reprise) and “The Last Resort.”
After “Hotel California,” they played about 20 of their greatest hits – as Eagles or solo artists – including “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “One of These Nights,” “Take It to the Limit,” “Witchy Woman,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Life’s Been Good,” “The Boys of Summer,” and “Heartache Tonight.”
That was a major chunk of amazing songs, but we needed an encore and received it in the form of “Rocky Mountain Way,” “Desperado,” “Already Gone,” and “Best of My Love.” Fans were standing in amazement, and even though the show was over, nobody wanted the evening to end.
The Eagles. It doesn’t get more legendary than that. Such an incredible and memorable night that I will never forget!