There are many reasons to dislike The Eagles. Their biggest hits have been overplayed over the years. Don Henley and Glenn Frey are conceited. They were the first act to sell tickets over the 200$ price point 20 years ago. But you can’t deny that they are hugely talented musicians, with a vast catalog of hits. The concert I saw in 2005 ranks in my top 5 shows, and I wondered if age had caught up with them, or if they still could deliver perfection on stage.
This tour is in support of the comprehensive “History of the Eagles” documentary that was released this year. The fantastic 3-hour film covers in detail every period of the band’s history, and it provided the framing for the concert. When the lights went down, Don Henley and Glenn Frey walked out on stage, sat down with acoustic guitars and played a heartfelt version of Saturday Night from their debut album. Between songs, Henley and Frey would tell little stories about the evolution of the band, or pre-taped segment would play on the screens in the case of longer instrument changes (they band changed guitars after pretty much every song). Going chronologically throughout their history, the band was next joined by original guitarist Bernie Leadon who sang Train Leaves Here This Morning. Leadon was in fine form, and stuck around for all the material he originally played on, which was a nice touch. Glenn Frey cleverly mentioned that he loved Poco to introduce bass player Timothy B. Schmidt, despite him not being an original member (Randy Meissner couldn’t join the tour because of his poor health), and then the band was completed with the arrival of Joe Walsh (again out of sequence for a truly chronological re-telling). Not surprisingly, no mention was made of guitarist Don Felder who was forced out of the band after refusing to take a smaller cut of the band’s earnings.
The first part of the show covered all their early hits (except a few kept for the encore). Highlights were Lyin’ Eyes, Already Gone, Tequila Sunrise and One of These Nights, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the set wasn’t fantastic too.
The second set seemed to drop the documentary approach; gone were the little anecdotes between songs, and the bigger set was utilized more, along with the back video panels. Joe Walsh occupied the lion’ s share of that set with some of his solo stuff thrown in. Last time I saw them, Frey and Henley also had some of their solo material in the set, but this time only Walsh gets the chance. It seems weird to give so much set times to him. My theory is that they want the end of the show to rock out a little more, and the Eagles are a little light on really rocking material. Walsh’s masterful slide guitar work was much appreciated by the crowd, with Funk #49 being the highlight for me. I thought we’d managed to avoid Rocky Mountain Way with its nasal vocals only a mother could love, but no, they’d just kept it for the encore. I must admit I don’t get the cult of Walsh. He’s an excellent guitarist, but he was the Eagle that drew the most cheers after Don Henley. I don’t get it. 🙂
As a first encore, the band played its classic Hotel California. I realized that as much as that song got overplayed 20 years ago, you don’t hear it much anymore, so whenever you do, it’s easier to appreciate it anew. The end section, with its classic guitar solo and harmonized runs was a highlight of the show.
To introduce the last encore, Frey reminisced about their first visit to Montreal in 1972, opening for Jethro Tull (guy behind me went “I was there!” which gives you an idea of the average age of the concert goers, at least in my section where tickets came close to 200$. And according to The Gazette, it was in fact Procul Harum they opened for, which ties in again with the average age and possible affected mental state during said concert) and went into Take It Easy, accompanied by the near sold out Bell Centre crowd. Goosebumps.
It remains to be seen how many years the Eagles have left in them. They are perfectionists and probably won’t stand to see their performances diminished, but they probably have a few years left in them. Let’s hope they keep touring a lot! Great show, amazing setlist, from a band that defined 70’s rock even though they were more country than rock.
P.S. Opening band was J.D and the Straight Shots. They were added a few days before the show and went on at 6:45 so I missed them except from the last 30 seconds of their set. They seemed pretty good. Apparently they asked people to meet them at a specific spot of the concourse and would give a copy of their album in exchange for an email address. Nice marketing 🙂
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
- Concert review: The Eagles at the Bell Centre; Nov. 4, 2013 (blogs.montrealgazette.com)
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage