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Classic East Festival Day One: The Eagles wow crowds at Citi Field

Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report
Filling in for the late Glenn Frey, Oklahoma native Vince Gill joined The Eagles on Day 1 of the Classic East Festival in New York City.
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It’s actually quite shocking that it took so long for an event like Classic East to come together.

It seems like there’s a new music festival announced every day or some “can’t-miss music event” making headlines. And with a few exceptions, these events are all more or less the same. Stacked with emerging artists, A-list superstars, and mid-level talent, music festivals cater almost exclusively to the twenty-something crowd.

But after the earth-shattering success of Desert Trip this past October, which saw the likes of Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and Neil Young among others in the most impressive lineup in recent memory, it seems that concert promoters have realized the obvious: teenagers aren’t the only ones who like to have fun.

In its inaugural year, the Classic East festival managed to blow every expectation out of the water with a two-day festival packed with classic rock. Fans turned out in droves to New York City, packing Citi Field full with music fans old and young alike for the first day of the festival Saturday night.

The Doobie Brothers might not have been the biggest draw of the evening, but their melodies and boundless energy were impossible to resist. Lead singer Tom Johnston’s vocals are still in fine form, with the group’s signature harmonies as pristine as ever.  They sang their hearts out to classic ‘70s soft-rock tracks like “Long Train Runnin’” and “Takin’ It to The Streets,” interacting with the crowd and looking like they were having the time of their lives. By the time they reached their encore and dusted off their biggest hit, “Listen to the Music,” the entire stadium was on their feet swaying to the beat.

After a brief break, Steely Dan took the stage to deliver an erratic set that only a group as singular as them could pull off. Over its nearly forty-five year history, Steely Dan has played with all manner of genres, sounds, and structures to craft a discography that defies categorization.

Flanked by a rather large backing band who created a wall of sound, founding member Donald Fagen didn’t make time for chit-chat as he went from hit to hit. Sometimes the songs were played straight, such as their soulful rendition of “Time Out of Mind.” Often there were some little tweaks brought in, such as having the three female backup singers take center-stage for a stirring rendition of “Dirty Work,” which was originally performed by the short-lived Steely Dan member David Palmer. 

Fagen didn’t leave his piano for the majority of the set, but he didn’t even need to stand up to grab our attention. As the sun started to set on Citi Field and Fagen launched into “Reelin’ in the Years,” you could just feel every classic rock fan in the crowd ascending to heaven. 

But regardless of how fantastic The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan were at warming up the crowd, it was almost time for the main event. Paired with the Classic West performance that took place in Los Angeles two weeks ago, these Classic Fest events marked the Eagles’ first headlining performance since founding member Glenn Frey passed away in January 2016. It was already bound to be an emotional night based on that information alone, and that was only affirmed whenever the band took the stage to deafening applause. Starting things off slow with a touching cover of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road,” just the sight of the group standing side-by-side was enough to send chills down your spine.

But if you weren’t already holding back tears, you would’ve lost it when the group played “Take It Easy” with Deacon Frey taking over his dad Glenn’s vocal duties. It’s eerie how similar Deacon’s vocals mirror that of his father’s, and I’m sure every single person in that crowd of 40,000 would agree that he made his father proud.

Country legend Vince Gill filled in for Gleen Frey, whom the group introduced as "one of the best singer-songwriters and guitarists this country has ever produced." And even if you’re not a fan of Gill’s solo work, he more than held his own with the rest of the Eagles on stage while performing the group’s more country-tinged tracks like “Lyin’ Eyes” or “Tequila Sunrise.”

With a set-list nearly identical to their performance two weeks ago at Classic West, the Eagles have always been consistently pleasant. There were no major surprises or deep cuts, aside from Don Henley’s 1990 solo hit “New York Minute” thrown in for obvious reasons. But that’s hardly a criticism given the entire festival was built on nostalgia, and the Eagles more than delivered on that front.

In other words, the Eagles were perfectly pleasant in every possible way. With Joe Walsh given his moment to shine with his solo hit “Life’s Been Good” and a rousing encore of “Hotel California,” the group proved that they’ve lost none of the spirit that made them global superstars in the first place.

And as the first night of Classic East, it set the tone for what was to come the second night.

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About the Author

Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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