x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Eagles take it to the limit in Dubai

The rockers brought out all the 1970s classics to entertain a 20,000-strong crowd at Dubai's Sevens Stadium.

The Eagles perform their first Middle East gig at Dubai's Sevens Stadium.
The Eagles perform their first Middle East gig at Dubai's Sevens Stadium.

Musicians are renowned for pulling some rather interesting faces while performing, especially during those crucial guitar or drum solos. But few will be able to beat the contortions displayed on the mugs of the Eagles on Thursday at Dubai's Sevens Stadium.

The bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Glenn Frey spent much of the two-hour set singing with his eyes closed, perfecting an agonised, strained look that appeared to suggest he had trapped a digit (or worse) in a car door. Elsewhere on the stage, the long white tresses of the Stratocaster-wielding hellraiser Joe Walsh framed a continuously gurning face that conveyed the feelings of a man who had just been forced to consume a hefty dose of vinegar.

Perhaps the eyes-closed state of these two titans of country rock was in preparation for the shamal, the mighty sandstorm that had engulfed much of the UAE throughout the day and threatened to disrupt the band's first Middle East performance in their 40-year history (which makes them just one year younger than the country itself). Thankfully, despite the warnings from organisers, the strong winds stayed away and the show went on without so much as a Stetson being blown comically off a head.

"Same band, different desert," shouted Frey after opening with the twangy guitars and multilayered vocals of How Long, one of the few tracks played from their last album, Long Road Out of Eden.

It may have been a different desert, but for much of the 20,000 fans, young and (mostly) old who had flocked to the stadium, it was still the 1970s Eagles classics they wanted to hear. And few are likely to have left disappointed.

Mixing slow, "luuuurve"-heavy end-of-the-barn-dance numbers with harder-edged "grab yer parrrdner" affairs, the band went through a merry gallop through their sizeable greatest hits catalogue, with Walsh, Frey, fellow founding member Don Henley and even the bassist Timothy B Schmit taking turns on vocal duties.

Hands were aloft and hips were swaying throughout Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take it to the Limit, I Can't Tell You Why, Lyin' Eyes and Witchy Woman. "This song is so old it was recorded when the Dead Sea was only sick," joked Frey of the latter. Out also came Henley's 1984 solo hit Boys of Summer, one of the few references to the band's lengthy time apart.

"This has become our theme song," said Henley, leading most amateurs of soft rock to believe Hotel California would be coming next.

But no, it was the Memphis R&B sounds of The Long Run that blasted out of the gigantic speakers to the joy of the aficionados up front in the fan pit.

Anyone wanting to know what 20,000 expats singing Hotel California in unison sounded like had to wait, predictably, until the lengthy encore, which was followed by fellow Eagles benchmark Take It Easy and the Sevens Stadium's obligatory massive firework display.

"Who likes country rocking?" asked Frey at the start of show. As would have been very apparent at 11pm when the one of the largest crowds Dubai has seen for a gig eventually started to disperse: quite a few it seems.

 

aritman@thenational.ae