The sensation was magical.
That’s what EagleMania — Tribute to The Eagles keyboard artist, founder and band manager Frankie Reno recalls.
As the veteran musician looked out at the large audience populating the Freeman Arts Pavilion near Selbyville on July 22, 2021, he couldn’t help but feel a connection between the spectators and his band.
“Freeman Arts Pavilion is an impressive venue,” said Reno. As part of their encore, he said, they perform one of their most popular songs, “And we ask the audience to light up their cell phones. That night, it looked like a million stars from the stage. It was a spectacular sight.”
Eaglemania — Tribute to The Eagles will return to Freeman Arts Pavilion on Friday evening, July 1, for a 7 p.m. performance.
The 10-year-old tribute band, which is enthusiastically anticipating its return engagement in the area, plays music by The Eagles, an American rock group that was formed in Los Angeles in 1971, and recorded and performed through 1980. The band has since reunited sporadically to tour, with various combinations of band members.
The Eagles, whose music continues to maintain popularity with multiple generations of fans, produced six No. 1 albums, and charted five No. 1 singles, “Best of My Love,” “One of These Nights,” “New Kid in Town,” “Hotel California” and “Heartache Tonight.” The band, which produced more than 80 songs, also earned six Grammy awards and five American Music awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
“I grew up loving their music,” said Reno. “When I started thinking about forming a tribute, I couldn’t think of a band with a better catalog of music than The Eagles. They appeal to such a large demographic that it made perfect sense to me to start EagleMania.”
For the past five years, EagleMania has been composed of seven musicians.
J.D. Kelly is the lead vocalist, while Ken Darcy combines his vocals with guitar. John Gaechter and vocalist Josh LeClerq play lead guitar, and Dennis Espantman combines vocals with the bass guitar. Completing the band are Jonathan Weiswasser on drums, and Reno, who combines keyboards with guitar and vocals.
“I am very fortunate to have found the right combination of players for this band,” said Reno. “Each individual is incredibly talented and can play their instruments with the best. We all bring something different to the table, whether it is someone’s ability to figure out vocal harmonies, or instrumentation, or their exceptional musicality. Our approach to this music has always been a collaborative one, utilizing the talents and skills of each member of the band.”
‘An incredible catalog of music’
The group prides itself on performing what Reno terms “an incredible catalog of music. We don’t take our jobs lightly. We strive to sound as close to” the original work “as possible,” he said. “That being said, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to consistently deliver as perfect a show as possible, night after night. It’s challenging, but also very rewarding. We take great pride in our ability to cover this material and provide our fans with a show that they won’t soon forget.”
Reno considers The Eagles a classic-rock band, although some have referred to them as a country group.
He said he understands that “because they have numerous songs that contain a country-rock vibe,” he said. But, “I don’t believe they fit into that Nashville definition of a country band.”
One of the biggest challenges for EagleMania is preparing playlists for each of their shows, Reno noted.
The Eagles, he said, he performed “so many great songs that people relate to in different ways. I think the three most popular songs that we perform are ‘Take It To The Limit’ — my personal favorite, ‘Hotel California,’ and either ‘Desperado’ or ‘Take It Easy.’
“One of the most difficult things to do is to decide which songs make it into the show, and which songs we have to leave out,” Reno added. “We could easily play for four hours straight, and still not cover all of their best material. Our show is currently two and a half hours long, and we have to leave out many great songs due to time constraints.”
According to Reno, he and his bandmates take significant pride in being a tribute band.
“There are some really great tribute bands out there, and there’s a large market for tributes.” The tribute acts, he said, “exist because people want to see a high-quality act perform the music of their favorite bands. Some of the original artists have retired, or can no longer tour, so a tribute is the only way a fan can see a live show” performing their favorite entertainers’ music.
“I love it when I see a tribute band really nail the performance of the original act,” added Reno. “It takes a lot of time and dedication to present a tribute show. I believe that a lot of people come to a tribute show not knowing exactly what to expect.
‘Still a thrill for us to get up on a stage’
Throughout its 10-year history, EagleMania has toured nationwide and entertained thousands of appreciative fans.
“It is still a thrill for us to get up on a stage — particularly the Freeman Arts stage — look out at the audience and hear them sing along with us,” said Reno. “The fans truly love the music, and they seem to appreciate the efforts we have made to present them with a show that any Eagles fan would love. We have to live up to the expectations of what the fans would see if they were going to an Eagles concert. We have to be just as good as The Eagles, or fans will leave disappointed. It puts a lot of pressure on us, particularly because we have chosen to pay tribute to a band that has set the bar so incredibly high.”
Reno said he and his band members derive just as much gratification from a performance as the fans do.
“We consider ourselves to be very fortunate to be able to do what we do,” he said. “We never take a show, or a fan, for granted. We love our fans, and we love what we do.”
The Freeman Arts Pavilion is located at 31806 Lakeview Drive, west of Fenwick Island, near Selbyville. To purchase tickets, call (302) 436-3015 or access the Freeman Arts Pavilion website at www.freemanarts.org.