[Concert Review] Eagles, Mt. Smart (or how to watch stadium concerts for free)

It might be unwise to advertise this, as it might ruin my chances of being able to pull it off in the future – but watching large, expensive stadium concert for free is a lot easier than you’d imagine.

Eminem I watched from the top of a walking track (Bullock, for those in the know), placed perfectly so as to see the Western Springs stage and screen. The audio may not have been perfect, with vocals only somewhat comprehensible, but 30 – 40 of us had a good ol’ time watching the Detroit MC tear it up, free of charge – and BYO as well. For that concert I followed the lead of others and eventually made it into Western Springs amphitheater in time for the encore, Lose Yourself – which seemed an appropriate moment to celebrate joining the age old club of the concert fence jumper.

I repeated the experience a few Saturday’s ago for Eagles – who rolled into Auckland on the back of their History of the Eagles world tour. I’d not planned to see them live – I’d recently been spoiled with great concerts (that I paid for), of Laneway Festival 2015, Drake and Westfest, the latter of which included great sets from Mayhem, Lamb Of God and Judas Priest (I hope to review these soon – will perhaps review them in a reverse chronological order). But Saturday came round and the Eagles called. All through-out that day I had Desperado and Take It Easy in my head, alternating on repeat. So at 7.40pm, knowing the Eagles were due on roughly about that time, I took a train to Mt. Smart without a ticket in hand. Not knowing if I would find a scalper selling a cheaper ticket as so often happens I rocked up to the stadium, only to find the only option for ticket purchasing was a $150 seat right at the back. Eagles were already up to Peaceful Easy Feeling. I decided to flag laying down a large sum to sit in the back of the stadium and instead opted for circling the stadium, soaking up the aural vibes (the sound was oddly good outside the stadium), and scoping out potential fences to jump.

The fences all proved too high and too risky, but I eventually found a spot with a perfect viewing angle towards the stage. I was behind a fence, but the sound was still top notch, and I was pretty much parallel to the stands at the back of the stadium. At this point the band had finished their first set, one that largely highlighted their ballads and after a brief interlude they would return with a decidedly more upbeat second half.

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The Eagles are pretty uncool in a way, their songs have been bashed to death by oldies radio stations, and though it may be kind of like commenting of the vastness of the grand canyon – they sounded amazing live. It might be something about the style of music they play but it seemed perfectly suited to stadium acoustics – not something you can claim of all genres. Of course the huge team of sound engineers and millions of dollars they’re making for the playing the show probably helped as well. The vocal harmonies, dry drum sound, tight bass and jangly guitar of which is characteristic of the Eagles sound sounded crystal clear even as far back as I was, it was almost as if current core-Eagles Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt weren’t really there, and that we were all just watching holograms broadcast from a futuristic blu-ray player on to the stage.

You can criticize a band for sounding too much like their studio albums, but there’s also something to be said for giving the people want they want. Dad rockers and mainstream music fans were in ecstasy as the band belted out hit after hit. Early songs such as Doolan-Dalton sounded fantastic, with founding member Bernie Leadon re-joining the band for this tour, adding further to the authenticity. There was perhaps a bit too much self-congratulating, with the story of the band being told between performances (this being a tour inspired by a documentary), but moments such as the underrated These Shoes, Joe Walsh’ Life’s Been Good absolutely rocked.

At least from where I was behind a fence at the back of the stadium they seemed to rock.

To sum up this brief post,  I recommend trying your hardest to find the cheapest way in to the next big stadium concert you’re weighing up. You might not be right at the front, but you’ll still get all the atmosphere and almost the same show at not nearly the price. If fence jumping isn’t your thing, you could always try asking for a ticket from someone leaving the show early. Worked for me at both the 2nd Queen + Adam Lambert show and the Black Caps vs. South Africa cricket world cup semi-final at Eden Park. A great match might I add, thanks very much to the family who gave me their space ticket to watch the last few overs for free.

eden park cricket semi-final black caps south africa

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