Group members paid several tributes to their late co-founder — who passed away in January 2016 from multiple medical causes — throughout the three-hour show at Little Caesars Arena. Don Henley, who started the band with Frey in 1971 after the two played in Linda Ronstadt‘s band, told the crowd before “Take It to the Limit” that, “It’s always a little bittersweet to come play here, but we are forever connected with you. We miss our founder, but his legacy is going to live on in every song we play for you.”
And before the night’s final song, “Best of My Love,” Henley – who was battling what he told the crowd was “a head cold” — said that, “Back in 1974, Glenn and J.D. Souther started writing this next song and were kind enough to bring me in on it. I want you to sing along. I’m gonna sing this for Glenn.”
Joe Walsh, meanwhile, offered his own salute, dedicating the performance of his 1978 solo hit “Life’s Been Good” to Frey.
It was Eagles’ third pass through Frey’s hometown (he was raised in the suburb of Royal Oak) since his death, but the first time his son, Deacon Frey, was not with the band. The younger Frey is off the road due to undisclosed medical conditions. As usual, Vince Gill covered Frey’s vocal parts on songs such as “New Kid in Town,” “Take It Easy” and “Lyin’ Eyes.”
The show also included a shoutout to hometown hero Bob Seger, after the group closed its main set with “Heartache Tonight.” “I want to thank Bob Seger, who helped us write that song,” Henley told the crowd.
Earlier this month, Souther — who’s on his own solo tour of the U.S. — told UCR how Seger came to be part of the song, the chart-topping leadoff single from 1979’s The Long Run.
“Glenn and I were sitting at my house listening to some Sam Cooke songs one day…walking around my swimming pool, smoking and snapping our fingers, and we just sang that first verse — no instrument,” he said. “And we wrote two verses and thought, ‘Damn, I think we have something here that’s pretty good.’ We couldn’t think of a chorus…and I think Glenn had Seger on the phone and played it for him, then he picked up the phone and Bob sings the chorus and [Frey] was like, ‘OK, you’re in.’ He calls me and says, ‘How do you feel about four writers on this song instead of three?’ I said, ‘Well, that’s cutting the money [share] thin,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, but not if it’s a real big hit.’ I said, ‘That’s true. Who’s the fourth?’ He said, ‘Seger,’ and I went, ‘OK…’ The next time I actually heard it was over the radio.”
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The Eagles have been rightly praised for their canny combining of Glenn Frey’s city-slicker R&B with Don Henley’s country-fried rockabilly.