Thousands rock their memories of the Eagles at hospice concert

A little rain didn’t stop a crowd of about 5,000 from coming out to Mill Race Park on Saturday to see and hear a former member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group, the Eagles.

Precipitation delayed the headline act about 10 minutes, but the crowd didn’t mind. Under clear skies, Don Felder and his new band — billed as “A Night at the Hotel CaliforniA — opened the show with the Eagles hit, “Already Gone.”

It was from the group’s “On the Border” album, Felder’s first with the Grammy-winning rock band — in 1974 — featuring him on an elongated guitar lick.

For some in the crowd, it brought back memories from 40 years earlier.

Given the pre-concert thunder and light rain, perhaps it might have seemed appropriate had Felder led off with a different Eagles tune, “No More Cloudy Days,” recorded after his 2001 departure from the band.

Aside from the weather, Felder delivered his own forecast.

“We’ve got a lot of great rock and roll in store for you tonight,” he said.

And fans didn’t have to wait long to be convinced.

Next up was “One of These Nights,” from the 1975 album of the same name.

He was scheduled to play about 18 songs during a 90-minute show.

Felder’s Columbus visit began with an invitation-only meet-and-greet before the 29th Annual Our Hospice of South Central Indiana fundraising concert drew 150 people to the downtown venue across the street from the concert site.

They came carrying memories and memorabilia. And the 67-year-old rock veteran — famous for writing the music to “Hotel California,” one of the Eagles’ biggest hits — smiled for cellphone photographs, and autographed everything from T-shirts to posters and album covers.

Retired surgeon Daria Schooler operated her way to the front of the line by arriving early — and brought a 1998 German-issued collector’s edition of the “Hotel California” album and a special four-CD collection of the Eagles’ hits for Felder to sign.

“He made tremendous contributions (to the band),” Schooler said after a cozy shot with the performer.

Fans Rusty and Holly Downey came to hear Felder for a simple reason.

“He’s really a rock icon,” Rusty Downey said.

“And we wanted a chance to directly introduce his music to our (15-year-old) daughter (McKenna),” Holly Downey said. “I think she’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much she likes it.”

Rusty Downey also came hoping to hear one of his favorite hits: “Desperado,” from 1973, a year before Felder joined the Eagles. But Felder has included some early Eagles tunes in previous performances — and won kudos from fans.

“Oh, he’s amazing,” longtime Columbus guitarist and singer Jan Banister said after meeting him. “Just for him to still be playing so well and to still have joy that he seems to have is amazing. He obviously still loves it all.”

Beverly Bryant came away from a pre-concert chat with Felder with a big grin, an autographed poster and T-shirt and something of a peaceful, easy feeling — after being a bit nervous and excited beforehand.

“I’m still hot,” she said, fanning herself and laughing.

“He’s got a really different aura about him. And he’s been so nice to take time with each and every person and make sure they get what they want.”

Other longtime Eagles fans described the band’s impact in basic terms.

“It’s music that helps you feel good,” Tom Schoellkopf said.

No matter if you hear it on a dark desert highway. Or at a misty Mill Race Park.

By the numbers

18: Number of songs headliner Don Felder planned for his 90-minute set

27: Number of years Don Felder played guitar with the Eagles

150: Number of people at a pre-concert,  invitation-only meet-and-greet

5,000: Number of homemade cookies being sold at the concert for the cause

$100,000: Amount of money Our Hospice hoped to raise through sales of raffle tickets, food and more

Weather's impact on hospice concerts

Our Hospice of South Central Indian, the nonprofit agency that helps the extremely ill with life-limiting illnesses — as well as their families — had seen two out of its past three concerts aborted because of rain.

And a third was moved indoors, shaving at least 10,000 people off the normal attendance and dramatically trimming proceeds from food, T-shirt and other sales.

Last year, rain fell much of the day — and shortly before ex-Styx singer Dennis DeYoung performed.

Our Hospice now has a $20,000 rain insurance policy to protect itself from weather-related losses.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.