The sky over St. Kilda’s Palais Theatre turned orange and red – some may even describe it as a Tequila sunrise – as a lone Eagle flew in to serenade the masses.
Ably warming up the over 40s crowd was local legend, Ross Wilson. Accompanied by his band, The Peaceniks, the Daddy Cool frontman is nothing short of a delight to watch on stage.
Wilson is no stranger to The Palais, telling the crowd that he had played the upcoming song in the hallowed hall many times, as “it’s 42 fricken years old.” As “Come Back Again” started, enthusiastic cheers rang out from every corner of the venue.
Wilson moves about the stage with the energy of someone half his age and his enjoyment is palpable. Though his dance moves are a little “dad-like”, complete with pelvic thrusts and all, it’s hard not to find him endearing and appreciate the love he has for his art.
Long-time bandmate Eric McCusker treated the crowd to an impressive guitar solo in Mondo Rock’s “Chemistry”, as Wilson stood front and centre, delighting in some repeated moves throughout the chorus.
A passionate audience member called out for his biggest hit, “Eagle Rock”, to which Wilson comically retorted, “we want a bit of foreplay first, hey?”
A more sombre tone hit when he played a song written for his late father, “Take Your Time”, stating, “He was a good guy, he taught me a lot.”
In a deserved moment of gloating, he explained that the next number, “I Come In Peace” had been covered by Joe Cocker, remarking that “you never know where a song is going to end up.”
Technical difficulties abound in “Cool World”, as his microphone carked it completely. Ever the easygoing performer, he continued as if there was no problem and even applauded the sound tech as he replaced it afterwards.
Gently picking his guitar, he introduced the final song as “born and bred in Melbourne: little bit of boogie, little bit of ragtime, little bit of rock n roll.” The unmistakable opening riff of “Eagle Rock” was almost inaudible over the applause. A terrific end to the set, the more fervent members of the crowd gave Wilson and his band a standing ovation.
A very dapper Glenn Frey walked onto The Palais stage in a crisp navy suit, guitar in hand, and launched straight into “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”
His smooth, distinctive American country tones sounded just as they did with The Eagles in decades past, and the evening was off to a flying start.
With a setlist consisting of new and old material, he warned the audience, “we’re going to go through my musical past and present tonight. It’s going be painful for me but I hope you enjoy it.”
His brilliant band were lit up in an orange glow as the familiar, Latin-esque rhythm of another Eagles classic, “Tequila Sunrise” began. A Mexican-inspired trumpet solo was a welcome addition and added to the theme of the song.
Frey prefaced the upcoming song as one of the first he ever wrote with fellow Eagle, Don Henley, revealing that they astoundingly wrote it and “Desperado” within a week. His description was interrupted by a heckler to whom he comically responded, “Uncle Bob, let me finish this story.”
Making a familiar joke, he dedicated it “to my first wife; the Plaintiff.” One of The Eagles’ greatest hits, “Lyin’ Eyes” received rapturous applause. The 6-minute-long story-style song’s fantastic refrain sent shivers down the spines of its listeners, his entire band contributing to the harmonies.
The show then turned to Frey’s recent album, After Hours.
In honour of his parents and the music they listened to, it consists of covers of jazz standards by Nat King Cole to Randy Newman. Receiving a more subdued response than usual from the crowd, he joked, “seven people in Australia bought that album.”
“Route 66” allowed him to show off his dance moves and the up-tempo suited him well. Unfortunately many of the numbers that followed were slower and less engaging, like Grammy-winning “Shadow Of Your Smile”, Burt Bacharach’s “The Look Of Love” and “Here’s To Life”, made famous by Shirley Horne.
The Melbourne Pops Orchestra was a fitting accompaniment to the more classic songs and added a grandiose nature to the performance.
An avid golfer and always one to research his audience, as the evening rolled on Frey noted, “this feels like a round of gold at Royal Melbourne; it’s going too fast.”
The rude heckler struck again, and Frey wasn’t as jovial in his response to ‘Uncle Bob’, gently threatening “You know what, you’re going to be outside in a few minutes if you don’t stop.”
Frey also indulged in some early material from his first solo album, No Fun Aloud, or as he referred to it, ”Prelude to obscurity.” Adding, “that’s funny, come on.”
He is almost as good a raconteur as he is a musician, dropping such lines as “Reggie (the bass player) and I are from Detroit, where ‘mother’ is only half a word,” and introducing “Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed?” as a song that was “popular during the Clinton administration.”
The Eagles’ tracks are easily standouts, and “Take It To The Limit” makes for a great first encore.
Originally sung by Henley, the ballad “Desperado” evoked cheers of appreciation. Though a beautiful rendition, Frey struggled to hit the high notes as his bandmate could, stepping back from the microphone at crucial points.
As he was warmly welcomed back on stage for the second encore, he earnestly told the fans, “I just want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed being in your country.”
The night ended with The Eagles’ first single, “Take It Easy”. Arguably their biggest song, Frey said that the band’s guitarist, Joe Walsh, once told him, “if I knew I was going to have to sing this song for the rest of my life I would’ve written something else.”
Regardless, he assured them “I’m going to sing it like it’s the first time.”
He was true to his word, and as the all-American man left the stage for the last time, his fans couldn’t ask for more.