Everyone has a song or a band that evokes memories of significant events or moments from their past. On Monday night, in Atlanta, one of the bands that probably has more songs, that mean more, to more people, played to a packed Philips Arena as the Eagles brought their tour titled the History of the Eagles to town.
The Eagles’ place in popular music history was established forty years ago with the release of “Take it Easy” the first single from the Eagles self-titled album. Since then they have just been consolidating that position.
In the years subsequent to that landmark composition the Eagles have become one of popular music’s biggest acts but their success has not been without some rancour and acrimony amongst the band members. The band split in 1980, and didn't regroup until 1994 when “hell froze over”, the precondition that Don Henley apparently put on a reunion. Since then the Eagles have been enjoying an incredibly successful, if sometimes, fractious relationship.
The Eagles have toured fairly regularly since their live reunion album “Hell Freezes Over” was released in 1994 and while there has been little new material that has reached the heights of their early releases it doesn’t matter. Hearing those iconic country rock songs sung live by the band’s principal artistic forces is reason enough to celebrate one of American popular music's biggest musical influences.
The concert also provided the audience, mostly older boomers, with much of the music that has provided the soundtrack of their own lives. Song after song provided much in the way of nostalgia but there was nothing nostalgic about the evening. The guitars were crisp, there were a couple of fresh arrangements of standards and the harmonies were sharp despite both Frey and Henley suffering from colds.
With a catalog as extensive as theirs it becomes a challenge deciding what should be omitted from the set list. Fortunately the band played for almost three hours with a thirty-minute break so they were able to play most of the music people would have expected.
The Eagles split their performance into two sets; the first recounted their humble beginnings in Los Angeles and provided some anecdotes about their musical journey in a “Storytellers” style performance while the second half of the show focused more on the music rather than on historical narrative.
Don Henley and Glenn Frey came out, fist bumped, sat on stools surrounded by amps and packing cases and recounted the bands’ early days as they played a number of songs from the first album. They were joined shortly after by fellow original Eagle Bernie Leadon, Timothy B Schmidt, and Joe Walsh.
Highlights of the first set were “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” and “Tequila Sunrise”.
The second half of the show felt like a Joe Walsh showcase. Not that that was a bad thing, Joe Walsh the guitarist is magnificent. “Those Shoes” was terrific and he and Glenn Frey got into a guitar dual introducing “Funk #49” that didn’t last too long before Frey threw up his hands and looked to the audience for help as Joe Walsh wheeled away and got on with the business of the song.
While Walsh the guitarist is legendary, Walsh the stage personality is larger than life, as evidenced by Joe Walsh as Godzilla during “Life’s Been Good” and Joe Walsh as Superman during “Rocky Mountain High”, video footage projected onto the large video backdrop.
The highlight of the second set was “Pretty Maids All In A Row” Walsh’s distinctive voice and his slide guitar resulted in a version that was as mournful as it was supposed to be, really wonderful.
In addition to that, Timothy B. Schmit’s opportunities “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive” were magnificent while Frey’s lead on “Take it Easy” and Henley’s on “Desperado” defied the sore throats their colds were providing.
A couple of notes about the concert’s production: Prior to the start of the entertainment Don Henley requested that the audience silence cell phones and not take photos or record songs with a smartphone held above their heads as it might detract from others enjoyment of the show. For the most part the audience respected his wishes. His request made sense, and audience compliance really did make the show more enjoyable for everyone. Much of the Eagles music is built around acoustic guitars and delicate harmonies and countless flashes and raised cell phones would have detracted from the ambience the band were trying to convey.
The sound was very good, and as clean as it could be, given that Philips Arena is not the best venue acoustically. It helped that the amplification was not turned to deafening and distorted levels that other acts have used at Philips. Furthermore the audience was there to enjoy the music and did so there was no problem having to listen to random conversations from those sitting nearby.
Everyone has their favorite Eagles song. It reminds them of a earlier period in their lives. As good as this latest performance was it's reasonable to assume that, in the future, people will be able to reflect on this concert period and have nothing but great memories.
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Peaceful Easy Feeling
The Best of My Love
One of These Nights
Take It to the Limit
Pretty Maids All in a Row
I Can't Tell You Why
New Kid in Town
Love Will Keep Us Alive
In the City
Life's Been Good
The Long Run
Life in the Fast Lane
Take It Easy
Rocky Mountain Way