Local fans must wait until October for EagleMania
It began with great songwriting, Frank Reno said. American rock band, the Eagles, founded in 1971 and active through the present, has “amazing songwriters.”
“These guys found a way to write melodies and construct songs so memorable,” Reno said. “Once you get some of them in your head, you can’t get them out.”
Reno believes so strongly in the music of the Eagles that in 2010, he formed EagleMania, a tribute band that performs across the United States playing Eagles’ repertoire as well as the solo work of band members Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh.
EagleMania was scheduled to perform Saturday, March 21 at The Maryland Theatre. In light of restrictions due to COVID-19, the concert was postponed and rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.
Henley writes great lyrics, Reno said, and the Eagles “worked brilliantly together. There was a formula there that just worked.”
Henley started the Eagles along with Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner and went on to release five No. 1 singles, six No. 1 albums, six Grammy Awards and five American Music Awards.
Not your typical band
Reno grew up listening to the Eagles, as his parents were big fans of the band.
“It was always playing in the household,” he said. “I got hooked at an early age.”
He spent decades as a working musician, playing night clubs and working on various projects throughout the years. About nine years ago, he said, he grew weary of the circuit.
“I was tired of doing clubs, going out until three in the morning, everything else that goes with club music,” he said. “I wanted to try something different.”
The tribute market was emerging at the time. He saw theaters regularly booking acts and “it seemed like the right time to get involved.”
“I figured the Eagles would be a good band to try,” he said. “People love the music and it appeals to such a large demographic.”
Reno called on his musician friends as possible partners in the endeavor. He went through dozens who were not the right fit.
“It was probably the most difficult project I’ve ever done. The Eagles are not your typical band,” he said. “They have five-part harmony, beautiful vocals, instrumentation. They are perfectionists about everything they do. The music is far more complex, deeper than most people give them credit for.”
It took about a year to get the right group together.
“Listening to the tracks, breaking them down, everything in those songs,” he said. “It was hard finding guys that could sing, play, harmonize and sound like the Eagles.”
Finally, he found those guys, each of whom was a veteran of the club circuit. From there, it was smooth sailing.
“It took off much faster than I expected. Eight years later, we are still on an upward incline, still getting bigger, faster, better than I ever would have expected after eight years,” Reno said.
Along with Reno on keyboards and vocals, EagleMania is comprised of John Gaechter on guitar and vocals; J.D. Kelly on lead vocals; Ken Darcy on guitar and vocals; Jon Weiswasser on drums; and Dennis Espantman on bass guitar.
All about the music of the Eagles
While many tribute bands try to look and act like those whose songs they perform, New Jersey-based EagleMania focuses mainly on the music.
“We don’t try to look like, act like, take on the persona of the guys,” Reno said. “We do have guys that — one guy sings all the Glenn Frey stuff. I do most of the Joe Walsh stuff but not all of it. Our lead vocalist, front man, does Henley, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit.”
Several of the EagleMania band members are songwriters. The band talked early on about throwing originals and other covers into their sets, but decided against it.
“That’s not really what our purpose is,” Reno said. “We are a tribute to the Eagles. Our show should really be all about the music of the Eagles. We don’t throw in covers or originals. There is no room in our sets for it anyway.”
With songs like “Lyin’ Eyes,” “I Can’t Tell You Why,” “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” “One of These Nights,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and many more, the challenge of the band is choosing which songs to play.
“Let me tell you, the most difficult thing for me is picking out which songs to play. Our show is almost three hours long already, and believe me, every night someone says, ‘Why didn’t you play this?’ or ‘How come you didn’t play that?’” Reno said. “If we played it all, we would be onstage for five hours.”
The songs are about life and love.
“The most successful songs, the greatest songs, are the ones that a majority of people can relate to and in some way, the Eagles tapped into that,” he said. “I’m a songwriter. I know how difficult it is to write great songs. These guys seemed to be able to just turn them out one after another.”
“Hotel California” gets the largest ovation at EagleMania performances, along with “Take It Easy” running a close second. “Desperado,” “Take It to the Limit” and “Already Gone” also are crowd favorites.
“There are people who come to our concerts and say, ‘Wow. You really brought me back. The music is like the soundtrack of our lives growing up,’” Reno said.
In addition to the songwriting, the voices of the Eagles set them apart from other bands.
“When you hear those voices, you know it’s the Eagles. They are immediately identifiable. That really created the success that put their band ahead of the pack,” he said.
Many bands took on a “cookie-cutter form” to attain success, Reno said, incorporating certain elements such as time limits of three minutes or less for radio play.
“The Eagles still managed to stay identifiable. They did their own thing and for some reason it worked,” he said.
True to the original material
Besides not adding originals and covers to sets, EagleMania stays true to versions of songs with which audiences fell in love.
“We make a point and have from day one — our mission was to be as close or as exact to the recordings as we could possibly do,” Reno said. “We don’t deviate and do long jams, we don’t put solos where they are not on the record. We stay true to the original material.”
That said, he added, the band members do maintain their own personalities.
“It’s not us there trying to be the Eagles. It’s not our own interpretations, but it’s more of us doing their music,” he said. “It seems to be working to our advantage. A lot of our audiences comes to see us perform as individuals, as musicians, and to hear the music.”
The members of EagleMania consider themselves to be “very fortunate.” Many fans follow them long distances.
“It’s flattering and humbling,” Reno said.
Audiences get involved in the music and most often they sing along throughout the concert.
“Sometimes the audience is too loud you can barely hear yourself sing,” he said. “It’s amazing how the people know every word to every song. It’s beautiful.”
Top photo: EagleMania is comprised of singer/songwriter Frank Reno, John Gaechter on guitar and vocals; J.D. Kelly on lead vocals; Ken Darcy on guitar and vocals; Jon Weiswasser on drums; and Dennis Espantman on bass guitar. (Submitted photo)