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Wednesday, February 18, 2015
‘Going to see the Eagles play’ took on a whole new meaning as the legendary Californian rock outfit rolled into town for two shows at the Arena. The 15,000 capacity venue was fully packed and there was a definite buzz in the air
As has become increasingly common, there was an announcement to not use your phones. The crowd mostly abided by the rules and immersed themselves in the moment – The History Of The Eagles.
Touring on the back of their recent documentary, the band took us on a three-hour journey through their five-decade spanning career. All the original members were there, apart from the estranged Don Felder, who hasn’t played with the band since 1999.
The show started off casually with Don Henley and Glenn Frey taking the simply-set stage, sitting down to strike up the gentle acoustics of Saturday Night. As Henley greeted the crowd and told the story of their origin as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, it became apparent we would indeed be in for a history lesson tonight.
One by one they were joined, first by original member Bernie Leadon for the Dillard & Clark cover Train Leaves Here This Morning, then bassist Timothy B. Schmit for Peaceful Easy Feeling and we got a real taste of those classic, four-part harmonies
Henley moved to a small drumkit as Joe Walsh stepped up to play lead on Witchy Woman, which had been slightly reworked – as were a lot of the songs – remaining faithful to the original versions, but adding subtle nuances.
Sitting around on their amps, Henley explained how it was just like the old days when they lived in a flat with no furniture out the back of a bottle shop. A fitting intro for a band that were never really about the pomp and ceremony, just a bunch of guys in jeans playing guitar and singing songs. The playing was tight and their trademark harmonies pitch perfect all night.
The back curtains parted to reveal a giant backdrop, as Henley moved to the large drumkit back of stage and the five guitarists were joined by a keyboardist, percussionist and grand piano.
The hits kept coming with Tequila Sunrise and Doolin-Dalton, complete with Wild West imagery, as the psychedelic cowboys of rock really started to hit their stride. At times there were 10 band members on stage, nine of them singing and six guitarists, creating an incredible harmonic wall of sound – such overindulgence would sound messy in the hands of most other bands, but not the Eagles.
Already Gone was accompanied by a video illustrating Frey’s journey across America from his native Detroit to the Hollywood Hills and interludes featured interviews with the band, before Take It To The Limit took us to the end of the first set.
After a break we were treated to another swag of classics. Peaceful Easy Feeling sounded great, and the Rhodes on New Kid In Town was as beautiful as ever. Frey explained how the band were big fans of The Beach Boys (“They were pioneers, we were settlers”) and they inspired their four part harmonies, singing as one, such as on Heartache Tonight.
They may not have the charisma of Springsteen or the energy of Jagger, but they have their own magic. Joe Walsh is the joker of the pack with his goofy banter – while pulling out some of the most classic guitar licks of all time. There was a little lull in the third hour, the sexagenarians had just flown in the country, but they finished strongly with “a song about perseverance” The Long Run and the rockin’ Life In The Fast Lane – Henley’s vocals still incredibly strong.
A standing ovation saw them return for Hotel California – lead guitarist Steuart Smith strapping on the double-neck and picking those familiar chords on the 12-string. He and Walsh’s guitars were splashed up on the big screen for that classic duelling guitar solo, surely one of the greatest of all time.
A second encore saw Leadon return for Take It Easy, before they finished on Desperado. A truly epic set from one of the greatest bands there ever was, whose timeless songs capture the essence of the Californian spirit.
ALFRED HAWLEY GORMAN II & III
Photography by Cole Maguire