Words & Deeds

Glenn Frey is dead, but Eagles tribute bands are very much alive

Hotel California will revive Eagles hits such as “Desperado,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Heartache Tonight” on Nov. 17.
Hotel California will revive Eagles hits such as “Desperado,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Heartache Tonight” on Nov. 17.

If you’re craving an Eagles tribute band like Hotel California, performing Nov. 17 at the Nampa Civic Center, it feels like any time of year (any time of year), you can find it here.

Wasn’t it only yesterday that Idahoans flocked to see The Long Run? The Colorado band performed at The Village at Meridian’s free Rock the Village concert series.

I remember thinking two things at that July show: 1) “Huh. That singing drummer does actually sound sort of like Don Henley.” 2) “Cripes, there is no place to sit or stand. Did half of Idaho really need to bum-rush this place for a cover band?”

Organizers estimated that nearly 7,000 folks rolled through The Village that day. After observing that enlightening Idaho cultural phenomenon, my psyche should have been steeled for the shock of witnessing an actual TV commercial for Hotel California this week.

Wha —? Since when do tribute bands get TV ads? And command $36-$41 per ticket (plus fees)?

Maybe since Eagles singer-guitarist Glenn Frey died in January?

It’s true that Frey’s death created an uptick in interest for Eagles music — as if it wasn’t already inescapable. It also is safe to assume that Eagles tribute bands will continue to materialize like magic.

“Oh sure,” says George Dickinson, band spokesman for Hotel California. “No doubt.”

Hotel California is not a newcomer. The group formed in 1983 and performs more than 150 shows a year, Dickinson says. After Nampa, the SoCal band will hop into its tour bus and cruise straight to Jackpot, Nev., for two packed nights at Cactus Pete’s Resort Casino.

Business has been “exceptional” for the last decade and a half, Dickinson says. Frey’s death didn’t affect that significantly. Nor did it alter Hotel California’s show.

“It hasn’t changed our approach to it,” he explains, “because we always try to take a respectful, reverent approach to doing something that people fell in love with.”

Not all tribute bands are created equal. Some are unintentionally comical. Usually the ones that wear wigs. (Why do Beatles tribute-band musicians always wind up looking like Moe from The Three Stooges?)

Hotel California labels itself “A Salute to the Eagles.”

“We don’t really call the band ‘tribute,’ ” Dickinson explains, “because we don’t do look-alike, sound-alike, dress-alike. We definitely put our own flavor into the songs.”

One hurdle that will prevent Eagles tribute bands from totally saturating the planet is the song catalog. If you’re attempting to pay homage to a technically proficient act like the Eagles, your performance requires a certain level of singing and musicianship.

Dickinson notes that whether it’s car dealerships or tribute bands, “competition is good for everybody. It sets you apart.”

Creston Thornton, owner of Garden City’s Revolution Concert House, thinks of a tribute-band concert as a weekend social event. Patrons sing along. They slop beer around. “You just want to hear the songs. You’re not going to see the stars,” he says. “You just want to have fun and party. It should be $10, $15 a ticket.” The RevCenter’s most recent tribute act was Neil Diamond-imitating Super Diamond, which performed in March. (The California band will return to Idaho for a Nov. 19 show at McCall’s Shore Lodge.)

Like me, Thornton saw the Hotel California commercial while watching TV election coverage this week. “They’re spending money,” he says. “Taking it to the next level.”

Thornton does not sound surprised by the fact that the Boise market is hosting its second Eagles copycat band in four months.

When a star dies, a tribute band is born.

“Prince’s stuff came out of the woodwork when he passed away,” Thornton says. He quickly emails me a link to a video of Minneapolis group The Purple Xperience.

“The Prince Purple Xperience — I’d love to bring them,” he adds. “That just sounds like a fun night.”

Fun. That’s the key. It’s also why in the short run, The Long Run might return to Meridian.

“We are definitely considering inviting (the band) back to The Village,” says General Manager Hugh Crawford. “We enjoy having them and they love playing here.”

Will Canyon County be equally excited about an Eagles tribute band? The Nampa Civic Center soon will find out. Its 640-capacity John Brandt Performing Arts Theater was a little over half sold out when I wrote this.

For now, there’s plenty of room at the Hotel California.

Tickets: nampaciviccenter.com and ictickets.com.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds