Mark Grassick looks back as the band prepare to take to Wembley Stadium in August 2020.
At the front of the politest pit in concert history, one excitable 17-year-old is desperately trying to get Eagles’ guitarist and co-vocalist Joe Walsh’s attention. He started just as Walsh contributed the first highlight of the day – his incendiary guitar duel with Don Felder on Hotel California – and he’s persisted ever since. It’s annoying everyone around him, including the girlfriend patiently pretending to like Eagles for his sake, but both he – and Walsh – are oblivious.
I never did get Joe Walsh’s attention. I didn’t manage to get his guitar pick or a copy of the set list either. But none of that diminished the insane rush of having finally seen the one band I felt fated to never see. Eagles’ acrimonious split came about long before my dad introduced me to their music on car journeys, so being a fan felt like discovering an old artefact buried in the sand: something to be cherished but never experienced. They’d never played Ireland and they never would.
Glen Frey had been especially blunt in his refusal to even contemplate a reunion, proclaiming that the band would reform when “hell freezes over”. At the RDS, on the outskirts of Dublin city centre, it was thankfully a whole lot warmer than that, but there he was, front and centre, flanked by Walsh, Felder, Timothy B Schmidt and Don Henley. Hell’s fires probably still burned but Eagles were back and had finally made their way to the Irish capital.
Facing a crowd that had waited an eternity for the band to grace these shores, The Eagles had the decency to go big right from the off and open with Hotel California. The unmistakable chiming B minor brought about a cataclysmic roar, 40,000 people ushering forth the warmest Irish welcome possible. The band could have followed it with a 25-minute jazz-funk cover of Sweet Caroline without losing an ounce of goodwill.
Thankfully, they took a more conventional path and treated the RDS to a spirited run through of highlights from their five studio albums, alongside Get Over It and Love Will Keep Us Alive from comeback compilation – the aptly titled Hell Freezes Over – and a smattering of hits from the members’ solo careers. The most famous of these, Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer, was greeted in true Irish fashion by a spontaneous downpour. Any regrettable omissions were foreseeable, such as my personal favourite Take It To The Limit, which had remained on the shelf since Randy Meisner left the group in the late ’70s.
What was evident throughout was how consummately professional the band remained, their harmonies blending effortlessly, despite the 14-year hiatus. Walsh, as ever, stood out as the eccentric force of nature he’d always been, donning a towering balloon hat at one point and surrounding himself with cardboard cut-outs of Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. In hindsight, maybe he should have been president.
Still, as the band said farewell for the third time, after leading a sea of people in a campfire singalong to Desperado, there was a tinge of sadness. Surely their first ever show in Ireland wouldn’t pass by without Take It Easy? Of course it wouldn’t. A third encore, a spirited blast through that timelessly twangy ode to easy livin’ and Eagles checked out.
Looking back, with Felder forced out of the fold and Frey now dead, the gig occupies an even more cherished place in the memory. The sight of Felder and Walsh facing each as they wrenched each glorious note of Hotel California’s solo out of their guitars. Frey’s laconic voice joining with 40,000 blissful others as Take It Easy brought the curtain down. These are irreplaceable “I was there” moments that burn even brighter in hindsight.
Eagles return to the UK for two headline performance at London’s Wembley Stadium.
28 August 2021 – Wembley Stadium, London
29 August 2021 – Wembley Stadium, London
Remaining tickets for Eagles at Wembley Stadium are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.