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Review: BWW REVIEWS: THE EAGLES at Nationwide Arena

After 50 years of rocking, the Eagles still lay claim the title of the Great American band

Review: BWW REVIEWS: THE EAGLES  at Nationwide Arena

What is the sound of America? When you think of the United States' landscape, what band do you think of?

Depending on age and life experience, a couple of names sprout upward like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, maybe Public Enemy or Sam Cooke.

One might be wise to consider the Eagles as America's Beatles. Fifty years after their creation, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt, Vince Gill and Joe Walsh laid claim the title while playing in front of a sold-out crowd at the Nationwide Arena on April 19. The band burned through the entire Hotel California album and an 18-song greatest hits package including the solo works of Henley and Walsh during a 2-and-a-half-hour concert.

After a nine-song banter-less blitzkrieg through their ground-breaking opus, Don Henley broke his silence: "Well that was it," the drummer/singer said. "That's the Eagles. No smoke bombs, no wind machines, no fireworks-just a bunch of guys with guitars."

Henley's dialogue was a bit of an understatement. While there were no fireworks and the only waves of smoke were coming from the audience, the experience was far from frill-less. A spectacular light show took the audience into the "desert with a million stars all around" on the song "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" and transported them into the inside suites of "Hotel California."

However, the latest wrinkle in the concert was a large string ensemble of mostly local musicians and a choir from Capital University to flesh out songs like "Wasted Time" and the often-overlooked gem of the Eagles catalogue, "The Last Resort." The stringed accompaniments were arranged by Jim Ed Norman, who was a college friend of Henley's from his North Texas State days and added the orchestration to Hotel California, Desperado, and One of These Nights albums. The choir and string section would magically arise from the depths of the stage and then disappear when they were not needed.

What makes the Eagles fly above the rest of their American counterparts is their diverse musical direction, with songs ranging from country, pop, rock, ballads, and funk. If New Kid in Town or Lying Eyes were released today, they would most likely race to the top of the country and western charts.

Supplying the country twang was Gill, himself a winner of 22 Grammy awards and a four-time recipient of the Country Music Academy's Song of the Year award. Gill had the unenviable task of filling in for the late Glen Frey, the Eagles' co-founder who died in 2016. Gill's first steps into the spotlight on April 19 was his performance, appropriately enough, on "New Kid in Town." While Gill handled the role well, the show sorely missed the humor and storytelling of Frey.Dressed like a river boat gambler in the first half of the show, Henley was in fine form vocally. His hair might be tinted silver now, but Henley's performance on "Hotel California," "The Last Resort," and "Life in the Fast Lane" still is pure gold.

After recovering from throat cancer in 2012, Schmidt made the most of his time in the spotlight with a stirring delivery on "Try and Love Again" as well as adding background vocals to the hits.

Walsh, a central Ohio native, is still the life of the party. Often viewed as the classroom clown, Walsh still can switch gears from his gravelly rock voice to "In the City" and "Funk 49," mournful intonation to "Pretty Maids in a Row," and comedic delivery to "Life's Been Good." His crunching power chords, synched with his facial grimaces were the perfectly paired with tour guitarist Steuart Smith's virtuoso performances.

Perhaps the biggest argument to why the Eagles are the Great American Band is not longevity, their diversity, or even their performance on April 19. The Eagles are one of a handful of bands who can deliver a stellar concert and still hold a handful of songs back and fans don't realize one of their favorite songs wasn't played ... until the late-night drive home. That's not the mark of the Great American Band; it's the calling card of A Great Band. There's a reason why America's bird and America's band have the same name.

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BWW Review: BWW REVIEWS: THE EAGLES at Nationwide Arena
April 21, 2022

What is the sound of America? When you think of the United States' landscape, what band do you think of? Read our critic's review.