A Updated

I had some high expectations for today and they were surpassed beyond belief

London: Hyde Park – 26th June 2022

As a general rule, I have always felt that reviews should stick to the writer’s opinion of the event or item being reviewed and avoid becoming overly personal. However, I do believe there are also occasions when adding a personal insight can provide the reader with a much better understanding of a viewpoint or conclusion. I find myself in the position of taking the latter approach for the second time in a row when reviewing this fantastic day in Hyde Park.

I have adored the Eagles for thirty-plus years, but I am extremely embarrassed to admit that wasn’t always the case. In my early-to-mid-teens, I was very much a Rock and Metal fan, and despite having a very large taste range when it came to different genres, the Eagles just didn’t connect with me. My best friend at school was the first to introduce me to the Eagles via their ‘The Best Of Eagles’ (1985 compilation) and seminal ‘Hotel California’ albums. To this day, I can’t really remember why they didn’t resonate with me, but my friend was nothing if not persistent, and sooner rather than later I shared his love of the California band.

Around the same time, my friend’s parents were massively into Country Music… or more specifically what I still refer to as “New Country” even today. I have no intention of using names, but “The Big Man” and his passion for New Country flowed into both of us as well. I owe this person immense gratitude for my still-huge love of New Country and Country Rock in general, and for many of my all-time favourite songs. The reason I mention him is that one of the Country artists he got me into was none other than Vince Gill. Back then, the stars of CMT rarely came this side of the Atlantic (although I did get to see Dwight Yoakum with them), so it was often a given that you would never see them live. Therefore, it was an extremely important moment when I found out I would be attending this show and be given the chance to see Gill perform in the flesh. I hope that bit of background information gives you a little insight into one or two of the more personal reasons why this show meant so much to me.
Despite a strong desire to experience the Eagles live, I have never been able to attend one of their concerts; more often than not, it was due to the lack of availability or price of tickets. Several weeks ago, I was offered the possibility of finally seeing this band live, and I do not mind admitting that I jumped at the chance. The headliners for the now annual BST Concerts in Hyde Park were recently announced and on Sunday 26th June, the day would be closed out by this legendary band. What made the event even more alluring was the inclusion of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on the bill. I have seen most of Rock’s legendary front-men on the live stage, but Plant was one of the few I had not previously seen. If that wasn’t enough, there was a third artist on the bill I was very keen to see – Morgan Wade. We reviewed her sophomore album in Fireworks last year, and this fantastically talented Country singer immediately grabbed my attention. A couple of weeks ago, my entry was confirmed and the excitement began.
Aside from the huge names performing over the next 4-5 weeks, the BST Concerts are impressive for a variety of other reasons. The enclosure itself is located in the centre of Hyde Park and it covers a large area. Scattered around the outer edge are a variety of food stands, drink outlets (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), toilet facilities, merchandise stalls, the Amex Experience (a bar and viewing area for Amex Card holders) and, of course, the stages, including the Hard Rock Rising Stage and the massive Great Oak Stage where the biggest acts would perform. The main stage was an impressed sight with a huge oak tree on one side and humongous screens on either side that carried on around to 45 degree or so angle. In addition to all the above, there were the gold/diamond circle areas in front of the main stage, the Hyde Away VIP area, the American Express Summer Garden and the All Terrace viewing area. There is so much to see and visit/try out that there really isn’t enough time to do everything, but those attending the concerts certainly couldn’t claim to be lacking for anything. Tonight, the crowd were also blessed with fantastic weather. It was bright sunshine all day and the showers that the weather had forecast around mid-week were nowhere to be seen.

I attended the show with a friend as I knew it might help provide a little extra insight in the various sets. It proved to be a good idea as prior to the end of Plant/Krauss, there was little more than ten/fifteen minutes between an act leaving the Great Oak Stage and the next appearing on the Hard Rock Rising Stage. Even for those of a fitter persuasion, it was a reasonable amount of ground to cover even going direct, let alone for a quick loo/drink/food break. Having arrived and made our way into the enclosure, we were soon stood in the middle of the vast general admission area. By this time, opening act Patrick Droney was already on the main stage and performing to the slowly growing crowd. As expected, his set wasn’t overly long, but the American singer/song-writer had a decent voice, which immediately showed that the sound for the event would be good. His style was somewhat difficult to describe, but it came across as decent paced Rock with a slight Indie/Alternative aspect.
I must offer my apologies to The Wandering Hearts, Cam and a few of the other artists that were on stage during the first few hours. Between looking around the various parts of the enclosure, plus getting some much-needed food and drink, I am sorry to say I was unable to cover all the earliest acts. I know from other colleagues who attend festivals and other events with multiple stages that this is often the drawback of quick-fire changes of acts from one part of the event to another.

The first name that I had highlighted on the list was Little Big Town on the Great Oak Stage. My colleague was already a fan of this group and was keen to see them, so I suggested she should review them. I was able to watch about three-quarters of the set from Little Big Town and found them a highly enjoyable band. With the ability to switch between four different vocalists, whether it be a main lead singer or more than one, they had a distinctive sound with plenty of variety. Karen Fairchild made a decent effort to engage the crowd, while Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet all made full use of the large stage. The group are a four-piece, but they were augmented for this show by three/four other musicians. ‘Rollin’’ had a lively stop-start riff and they tried to encourage an “Oooo” from audience members during the chorus. The followed this up with a summery little number called ‘Pontoon’ where Fairchild took some of the lead and was backed up nicely by Schlapman. The dreamy ‘Hell Yeah’ saw the band tease out a few “Hell, Yeah” shouts during the choral breakdowns. Sadly, at this stage, I had to leave the main area to make my way over to the Hard Rock Rising Stage to see Morgan Wade. I thought Little Big Town put on a decent show and were a wonderful fit for a bright, sunny day that was devoted to Country Rock.

Despite being a smaller stage and located at the far side of the general admission area, there was a decent amount of people sitting around waiting for the American vocalist from Virginia. Dressed in a luminous pink t-shirt and jeans, she opened her set with ‘Don’t Cry’. There was a nice separation of the instruments in the sound and her vocals were clear for the most part, but from my initial vantage point to the right, a few words here and there were a bit lost. I moved closer to the middle as she kicked into ‘My Last Cigarette’ and that minor niggle seemed to quickly improve. This song was one of my favourites from her ‘Reckless’ album and I was happily singing along, especially to the “Oooo” section at the close of the chorus. It was really pleased she played this track and based on the reaction of those around me who seemed to quickly get into her set, I wasn’t the only one. A couple of well-performed tracks followed that number, but I must confess to an absolute brain-freeze at the time when it came to their titles. As her regretfully too short a set headed towards its end, Wade delivered a lovely rendition of the ballad ‘Take Me Away’. The chorus and guitar echoed out into the world-famous Hyde Park surroundings, and it saw a few in the crowd swaying left and right. Wade’s penultimate track was an upbeat rendition of The Outfield’s ‘Your Love’, during which she also dropped in part of ‘Jessie’s Girl’ from Rick Springfield. Many of those in front of the Hard Rock Rising Stage knew this song and it got a few more singing even at the back where I had moved to by this point. There was a short technical issue before the final song of the set, but most of those around me seemed more than forgiving when it came to the unexpected short pause. As the closer played out, there was just enough time to join in with the deserved applause before making a swift move back to the Great Oak Stage for Plant/Krauss. I was really impressed with Wade’s performance, although it wasn’t long enough for me and I hope to maybe catch a full solo show the next time she crosses the Atlantic. Her voice sounds great live and her humble presence shone brightly when she did pause to speak. A great future beckons for this delightful and talented Country singer.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss appeared on stage just a few minutes after we had found a spot within the Great Oak audience area. Their thirteen-song set was filled with various covers, be it from their own work like Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, or from other artists like Benny Spellman (‘Fortune Teller’) and The Everly Brothers (‘The Price Of Love’). With the stage video backdrop displaying an image of curtains, there was something of a club vibe to both the visuals and the music. The duo started their set with the same song that opened their 2007 album ‘Raising Sand’ – ‘Rich Woman’ (Li’l Millet And His Creoles). I can’t really explain it, but the chiming guitar riff reminded me a little of Tito & Tarantula’s ‘After Dark’ that appeared in ‘From Dusk To Dawn’. The two of them sounded great vocally and sometimes you had to remind yourself that Plant is now in his seventies. Lucinda Williams’ ‘Can’t Let Go’ injected a little more tempo, and the harmonies between Plant and Krauss were almost as delightful as the visual interplay between the two of them. Plant took a bigger share of the vocals for Spellman’s ‘Fortune Teller’ before Krauss stepped into the spotlight for a soulful rendition of ‘Trouble With My Lover’. Both of them took to the mic for a lively version of Zeppelin’s ‘Rock And Roll’, which sounded wonderful with the inclusion of some violin and given a bit of a Rockabilly/sixties tweak. One of the highlights for me was ‘Please Read The Letter’. It's a song with beautiful lyrics and those were made even better when the chorus was sung in unison; I also can’t deny it was great to see Krauss bring out the violin and add a bit of mournful playing to it. Despite being a rocker, I do love a bit of violin/fiddle in my music. Another memory that will stick with me from this set was during the next number, ‘It Don’t Bother Me’ (which followed ‘High And Lonesome’). Plant is one of the most highly regarded vocalists in music, and yet there he was providing somewhat in the background on the maracas and backing vocals as Krauss’ vocals and the high-pitched guitar notes sailed out over them. Calexico’s ‘Quattro (World Drifts In)’ contained some nice stumming on what I believe was a jarana, although I’ll admit I am not totally sure. After ‘Gone Gone Gone’ (The Everly Brothers), Plant and Krauss dropped in ‘The Battle Of Evermore’, another Zeppelin cover, which featured some mandolin and an “Oooo” moment of stunning vocals from Krauss. They closed out their set with a tasty version of ‘When The Levee Breaks’ (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy). Krauss once again took to the violin and at one point played in tandem with the other violin/fiddle player. I sadly do not have a list of his current band, so will not do anyone an injustice by incorrectly naming someone. I don’t mind admitting that I absolutely loved the show from Plant and Krauss. The former still has a fine voice, and while their style of the music is not the thunder of Led Zeppelin, it is still fabulously played and performed. However, I must confess that Krauss blew me away, and there were moments where she let rip vocally and left me somewhat wide-eyed. When you add her violin playing, she really is rather special. I can’t recommend enough to everyone reading this that if you get a chance to see this fantastic pair, that you should absolutely do so. The weather was beautifully bright and clear, and their often relaxed, sometimes chilled, and occasionally lively performance was pretty much perfect for an early summer evening.

Thankfully, there was finally a decent gap between acts, so there was time for a quick bite to eat and a couple of drinks before the main event. To say I was rather excited was an understatement. Slightly earlier than anticipated, the Eagles took to the stage and spent the next two hours (yes, you read that correctly, two hours!) sending the audience into raptures. With the sun slowly setting just behind, a recording of ‘Seven Bridges Road’ trickled from the speakers before the members of this magnificent group strolled onto the stage. With such a vast catalogue of songs, there was any number of tracks they could have opened with, but for this show, the opener of choice was ‘One Of These Nights’. The instruments were perfectly placed in the mix, the vocals were wonderfully clear and the harmonies simply delicious. Even now, as I watch some of the short video clips I took as I write this review, the clarity of the sound is something to behold. Too often, the phrase “They sounded as good as they did on the record” is thrown around, but they honestly did. For a man in his mid-seventies, Don Henley sang and played drums like a man half his age. I couldn’t do what he did now, aged forty-six; I will have no chance in nearly thirty years. They also made wonderful use of the massive video-screen behind them with a beautiful image of the moon and then a nighttime city skyline for the opener. One of the great things about this show is that there was enough interaction with the crowd, but not too much that it felt like any momentum was lost. Moving swiftly on, they flowed nicely into ‘New Kid In Town’ and ‘Witchy Woman’. If you hadn’t guessed from the opening of my review, there was one moment I was really waiting for and that soon arrived. ‘Take It To The Limit’ was exquisitely sung by Vince Gill and his man-angel voice soared over the crowd like the sweetest hot chocolate down the throat. It was gorgeously performed, and I would like to add that I raised a glass to “The Big Man” as that song played. There was a nice moment as the crowd roared out the end of the final chorus. Gill remained on vocals for the delightful ‘Lyin’ Eyes’. It ended up being one of my favourites from that 1985 compilation and it came across well on the live show. The hands were up and voices were raised for the chorus. I have had that track swirling around my head for days! Joe Walsh stepped up to the mic next and delivered a rendition of his song ‘In The City’ against a backdrop of urban clips on the video-screen. Like Henley and Gill, the vocals were just… you know, enter your own superlative here. Having already have the unrivalled joy of three stellar vocalists, Timothy B. Schmit didn’t want to miss out on the fun and he took over for ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ and was every bit as good as his colleagues. ‘Victim Of Love’ came next and then it was time for another all-time special – ‘Tequila Sunrise’. The sun was well in the process of setting, and it delivered a wonderful light in the sky to such a magical song. All I could jot down in my notes was one word – magnificent. During ‘Best Of My Love’, there was the treasured moment of all four members – Henley, Walsh, Schmit and Gill – lined up at the front of the stage with guitars (or bass to be specific) singing away in harmony.
At this point, the gig was about halfway through, and the Eagles had an extremely unexpected but truly welcome surprise. Having left the band earlier in the year, I had no expectation that we would see Deacon Frey, but the Eagles had other ideas. He provided sumptuous vocals and acoustic guitar for ‘Peaceful, Easy Feeling’ and remained on vocals for one of my three all-time favourites – ‘Take It Easy’. From remembering this song as a driving montage on a ‘Knigh Rider’ episode to the day I was driving through the Napa vineyards in California with the windows down and this track playing, it has always been a special one for me. The sun had gone down by this point and the lighting show really came into its own. As for Frey, he delivered this personal highlight with aplomb and it will be a long treasured memory. Visually, it had great aesthetics too with some lovely neon blue lighting. Walsh stepped back up again for his own ‘Life’s Been Good’, and again the choice of neon purple lighting matched the now purple-tinged skyline with the sun having pretty much disappeared, and they followed this with ‘Those Shoes’. It is always great to have some classic solo tracks dropped into the set, but one will always stand out above the rest.

Henley dedicated ‘The Boys Of Summer’ to Taylor Hawkins, and it was another number that seemed to fit perfectly with the day we had all so far enjoyed. Performance-wise, that lovely echoing guitar rang out across the park and many joined in with that well-known chorus. They slipped in a cover of James Gang’s ‘Funk #49’, which featured some nice guitar work, and then dipped back into their own gargantuan catalogue for ‘Heartache Tonight’. The nighttime darkness was had fully crept up and at this stage the lighting and visual screens were something to behold. The band created a nice crowd participation moment with clapping and singing during the bridge, and the images of the crowd displayed on the screen looked even more effective given they were bathed in bright red from the lighting. Knowing time was slipping away, there was a sense of anticipation around me for the songs that were still yet to make an appearance. Another all-time classic came thundering along as they ripped into ‘Life In The Fast Lane’. I had a feeling this might be a bit of a cracker and I was absolutely right. The stage lighting was illuminating the entire crowd by now, and on stage there was a scorching solo from Walsh. I think it would be safe of me to say that no matter who you were or what other songs you liked, everyone, and I am mean everyone, was there for one particular moment, and the appearance of a twin-necked guitar announced its arrival. The night had truly rolled in and it provided the perfect ambience for the behemoth that is ‘Hotel California’. Backed by some freaky hallway images and later the iconic album cover, I don’t think anyone could have asked for more from this iconic tune. The vocal harmonies were lusher than a forest in rain season, and the crowd needed no encouragement to join in the sing-along. I think what stood out for me the most was the twin guitar work and soloing at the end. If you think it is good on the album, you should see it live! ‘Hotel California’… simple sensational! Walsh was given one final spotlight moment with a place for his ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ and as much as I like that song, I can’t help but think it should have been played earlier, thus leaving a run of Eagles classics to close out. There would have been no reason to leave it out and add another Eagles song, because let’s be honest, the hits were all there (although I have always loved ‘How Long’).
The end was nigh, and for the penultimate selection the Eagles went with that heartbreaker ‘Desperado’. As it started, all the screens and light were off, and it was just spots on stage, but as it built the spots got brighter and the screens eventually displayed a star-filled sky. It was worth the wait, even if it was just for the “ahhh” harmonies. Wanting to go out with a bang, the closing choice was the upbeat ‘Already Gone’. Eliciting a big surprise from the audience, not only did Frey return to the stage, but the Eagles were joined by lifelong Eagles fan John McEnroe on guitar and Patty Smyth. It had a bit of a party feel to it with the crowd joining in with the “wo-hoo” backing and boogieing away. Following two hours, twenty plus generational hits and a display of musicianship that is unsurpassed, the show was over. I don’t think you need me to deliver a very long summary of my thoughts on this show. I think the above makes it pretty obvious. Henley had said at the start that, “Our mission is to give you a two-hour vacation from all the horrible headlines” and they wanted to take the crowd on “A hell of a ride through our back catalogue”; without a shadow of a doubt, it was mission successful. As someone who has struggled to be in public due to Covid anxiety, this show was worth every moment of apprehension that I felt leading up to it. It would be easy to get caught up in nostalgia of a show like this, maybe viewing it with rose-tinted specs, but their performance, on whatever level you want to look at it, was faultless.

I had some high expectations for today and they were surpassed beyond belief. I have always wanted to see the Eagles and often felt sad that I wasn’t able to attend earlier shows. They more than made up for that tonight. I don’t think I was alone in not wanting the show to end, and having had such a great day overall, not in any hurry to go home. With the band saying thank you in case they don’t make it around again, there was a sense this may be the last time they will perform here in the UK. I hope not, but if it is, my word, what a way to go out!

I must also add a special thank you to the staff of Outside-Org who arranged everything for us today. It was an honour simply to be there, but they made sure the day was so much more, so a massive thanks to all of you!

Dave Scott

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