Eagles delight Indianapolis crowd at California Hotel tour stop

As the Eagles stood behind a curtain at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, a man in a black groom uniform crossed the stage to place a vinyl copy of 1976’s “Hotel California” on a turntable – a light touch of drama before the band embarked on a two-sided rendition of their beloved album.

Another man two rows behind and probably three beers in front of me started shouting words of encouragement.

” Yeah ! Take it off! Put the needle on it!

I probably shouldn’t speak for all the packed house that ventured downtown in the pouring rain on a Tuesday, but maybe this man was all of us. His enthusiasm was especially shared by those like me who hadn’t seen a show of this size in a long, long time.

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The Eagles performed for their Hotel California Tour on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

We jumped out of our seats when the title track started. An excellent rendition, and the first of many shakes.

Starting a show with what would normally be your crescendo – your best hit, the name of the album, the name of this round – would seem to be a setup for deception. Like a band approaching their 50th anniversary preparing to play a three-hour show with a break and no opening act.

The disappointment never came.

Don Henley, the band’s only original Eagle and undisputed frontman after Glenn Frey’s death in 2016, told the audience it would be “like a three-hour vacation.”

After the first set, he defined the goal of the group.

“We’ll be back in about 20 minutes and play all the songs we know. We’ll wear you out.”

And they did.

The Birds of Prey put on a standout show, thanks in large part to Henley’s fellow lead singers, guitar wizard Joe Walsh and country singer Vince Gill.

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The band had lost a member, as Frey’s son Deacon was unable to tour due to illness. That didn’t slow them down, thanks in large part to Gill, who impressed by singing the venerable band’s classics in his own unique way.

Everyone in my neighborhood shouted the second verse of “Take It Easy” so loud it drowned out Gill. This support lasted the whole evening.

He was particularly impressive during his version of “Take It to the Limit”, originally a Randy Meisner vocal. Rather than climbing a vocal Everest to this note at its end, he just belted it all out in his own beautiful way.

To borrow Henley’s parlance, Gill sang her ass for most of the night. His voice lent a smoothness with a slight hint of twang to the classics.

The Eagles performed for their Hotel California Tour on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The vocal rearrangement was not always successful, however. Bassist Timothy B. Schmit’s version of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” didn’t work, especially after what Gill had just done. No need to pass this microphone.

A fussy might also have found weakness in Walsh’s singing during his first main spot during his song “In the City,” but this man had that crowd eating right in the palm of his hand.

A monstrous guitar solo later in the track nearly garnered its own standing ovation. In the middle of the song. For an instrumental piece. I don’t know if I’ve seen this before. Cheers, of course, but a lot of people stood up to shout for 90 seconds and then sat down for the end of the song.

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There have been lulls. Anything that lasts three hours will have its lulls. And when there were lulls, Walsh took over the audience with one of his songs.

“I love Indianapolis,” he told the crowd at one point. “I spent three days here one night.”

I took that to mean Walsh knew how to party, which is canon. But I want my new Hoosier siblings to know that I momentarily considered taking offense to it as some sort of nap town-like dig. I did it for all of us.

Walsh also delivered an all-time line to a crowd that, if I’m being honest, heavily skewed Baby Boomer.

“It was a lot more fun being 20 in the 70s than being 70 in the 20s.”

All this to take nothing away from Henley, who also sounded great. His longevity was perhaps most impressive, as he often sang while playing drums during this nocturnal odyssey.

The whole band was tight and the harmonies – perhaps the most essential part of the Eagles – were fantastic.

The Eagles performed for their Hotel California Tour on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“One of These Nights” probably isn’t about a Tuesday, but Indy audiences rehearsed it the day they were released nonetheless.

An orchestra was a nice, if by no means necessary, touch for a few songs, and a local choir from the Second Presbyterian Church was a solid addition.

I’m still fairly new here, and several people have warned me about the acoustics of Gainbridge. I was nine rows off the ground and it sounded good. I can’t say whether or not he did elsewhere in the arena.

I’m not a big Eagles fan. I was born 12 years after “Hotel California” came out. But the band won me over.

Of course, there will be purists like my former 70s rock DJ father who will say there can’t be Eagles without Frey or Don Felder, or after 1979.

I can’t say if they were as good as before. I do not know. But I’ve seen a group of musicians carry the load together and make a pretty good sound for the duration of a “Star Wars” movie.

“Life in the Carpool Lane” isn’t such a sexy song title, but going a little slower with a few more people on board will get you there anyway.

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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Reach him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.

Nicholas E. Crittendon