Photos by David Congalton
This concert was onstage at the SAP Center in San Jose on February 21, 2023.
Yes, I do know the way to San Jose, having made multiple trips up the 101 over the years, mostly for concerts at the SAP Center—Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel & Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Andrea Bocelli (twice), among others.
The SAP Center, at the northern tip of the downtown, is probably my favorite indoor concert venue in California. SAP is a German software company, and the popular arena, currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, is primarily known as the home of the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League.
But here’s what really matters about the SAP: it’s small, less than 20,000 seats. You can get a decent seat, close to the stage, without draining your bank account. It’s a quick three hours from San Luis Obispo and you don’t have to deal with San Francisco or Oakland traffic. Nor are you overwhelmed by the masses you’d find at Dodger Stadium or the new 60,000 seat SoFi Stadium to the south. If I hear that a favorite performer is coming on tour, I automatically check to see if it includes a stop in San Jose.
The other attraction about San Jose involves The Alameda, a tree-lined boulevard that connects the downtown to its northern neighbor of Santa Clara. There is a neighborhood between the SAP Center and the 880 that stretches for little more than a mile, a mixture of stately, older homes, eclectic cafes, and my San Jose concert hotel of choice, The Arena.
The Arena is a funky hotel in serious need of a facelift. There are mirrors on the ceiling in the lobby. The two restrooms near the front desk each feature a window in the door. The mattresses are softer than a baby’s behind and typically there’s a persistent smell of Lysol in the air. But I wouldn’t stay anywhere else in San Jose. You can get a decent room for $125 and The Arena is only a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 minute walk to the SAP Center. There’s not a better deal in town.
In the morning, you can wander up The Alameda to Café Rosalena and enjoy the biggest breakfast burrito you’re likely to encounter. They even make their own orange juice. The food is tasty and well worth the often twenty-minute wait because the place is hopping with take-out orders.
Yeah, yeah, Dave. Fine. Whatever. Great. But what about the Eagles?
Wednesday night in San Jose was one of the best concerts I’ve ever experienced.”
San Jose was my third attempt to see this show, having failed twice already because of COVID. I’ve seen most of the major performers of my era, but the Eagles somehow always eluded me. Then Glenn Frey died unexpectedly in 2016 and connecting with this iconic band took on new urgency.
The desire only intensified when the band announced what the new tour would offer: opening by playing the entire “Hotel California” album in sequence and then running through all their major hits. Oh, and they would be backed up each performance by a full symphony and chorus. Vince Gill and guitar wizard Steuart Smith would attempt the thankless task of filling in for Frey, who had originally created the band with Don Henley back in 1972.
As you take your seat inside the SAP Center, the first thing you notice is the stage. Actually, what you notice is that you can’t see the stage because it’s hidden behind an ornate silver curtain, something I’ve never experienced at a rock concert. The lights dim at exactly 8:10 p.m., followed by sound effects of howling wind and dangling chimes, which segues into music one might associate with a haunted house, supplemented by thunder and lightning. The dramatic mood is set.
A mysterious man dressed in black, complete with a cape, walks with purpose in front of the curtain to an old-fashioned record player at the far end. Arriving at the record player, the stranger reaches into his cape and produces an album (remember those?). Of course, it can only be, you guessed it, “Hotel California.” The audience roars. The stranger carefully removes the record from its jacket. Places the record on the turntable. Drops the needle. The curtain rises. And off we go.
I’ll start with this. Wednesday night in San Jose was one of the best concerts I’ve ever experienced. The lights didn’t come up until after 11 p.m. and, with the exception of “The Long Run,” I can’t think of a major Eagles hit that wasn’t performed. Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Joe Walsh are all 75, but they performed a 27-song marathon concert with zeal and vigor, making the old material feel fresh. Walsh, in particular, played masterful extended riffs on songs like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Life’s Been Good.”
An iconic rock band, singing their iconic album, accompanied by symphony and chorus—that’s a hard mix to argue with.”
I was worried that I would miss Glenn Frey, but Vince Gill stepped up on “New Kid in Town” and “Tequila Sunrise,” songs normally associated with Frey, and made them his own. Things took an emotional turn when Henley called on Deacon Frey, his late partner’s son, to come out. Deacon led the band through “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” before returning later for the encores. As Deacon finished, a huge photo of his smiling dad flashed on the screen. A nice, bittersweet moment.
A second curtain on stage went up starting with the fourth song of the evening—“Wasted Time”—to reveal The Sophisticated Strings, a symphony orchestra from San Francisco, who were used intermittently to back the Eagles. The chorus, the San Ramon Valley Chorale, only sang during “The Last Resort,” the final cut of “Hotel California.” An iconic rock band, singing their iconic album, accompanied by symphony and chorus—that’s a hard mix to argue with.
As Henley noted at one point, the band has been together through different permutations for 51 years and they remain appreciative of the fans. He really didn’t say much Wednesday night, preferring to let the music speak for itself, until the very end, when Henley introduced the final song, the fourth encore: “The Best of My Love.”
“We’re going to end with a mellow song,” Henley explained. “When Glenn Frey and I wrote this, we were thinking about a couple going through a divorce. Today, we do this song because our country is divided. The United States of America is going through a divorce.”
I don’t know how much longer these Eagles will continue to fly, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to finally catch them in San Jose. Take it easy, guys. One of these nights, I might just find you again.