Of the bands that arose in the early 70s during the rising tide of folk and country rock, the Eagles have turned out to be the group with the greatest ability to sustain large audiences, even 30-40 years later. Whether the History of the Eagles Tour currently finishing its run through the States and heading for Europe is indeed their last hurrah or not, it is an interesting exercise to compare them then…..and now. I saw them when they had exactly one hit (Take it Easy, actually by Jackson Browne mainly) and one album out at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke in the early 70s (73 I believe, but it may have been 72 or 74). Seeing them now 40+ years later is interesting.
First of all, the boys can still sing and play, even though all of them were born in 1947-48. Don Henley and Glen Frey were the instigators of the band, having come off a tour with Linda Rondstadt as back up musicians and then forming the band in 1971. One of the nice things about this most recent tour is the cameo monologues by Glen Frey telling the history of the group. It has certainly gone through a lot of personnel changes, but Henley and Frey have been the constants. The band’s original sound really was country rock, ala Poco (whose bass player Timothy B. Schmidt they later pilfered after the departure of Randy Meisner),but the sound of the band got a good deal more rock n’ roll when they added Ohio’s gift to rock n’roll, Joe Walsh. Joe of course had a large following due to his first band The James Gang and then his solo albums as well.
I will not rehearse the history of the band any more, but I will say that it was nice to see Bernie Leadon again (Sans hair. It took me a while on March 3rd to recognize the guy who used to have a curly fro). He has not been on the recent tours before now to my knowledge and he was a real contributor in the early days of the Eagles. I did find it exceedingly odd that the History of the Eagles concert (which last three excellent hours) did not include their recent history, in particular the more recent double album with Long Road out of Eden as the title song. Apparently this was the ‘Ancient History of the Eagles’ tour. Still, it was all good.
Some highlights of the show: the early acoustic stuff from the first three albums still wears well, and we could have used a full length version of the song Desperado, which both Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles made a hit out of. Best of my Love, their first number one hit, was really terrific with the nice four part harmonies. In the second half of the show, we got a lot more Joe Walsh— Pretty Maids all in a Row, In the City (those at least were both Eagles songs), indeed we even got some of his solo work such as Life’s Been Good to Me so Far’. And of course we got the dueling lead guitars of Joe Walsh, and a gentleman named Smith (unknown to me) from Arlington Va. who knew all the riffs of all the Eagles songs, and played them note perfect…. but still did not have the panache of Don Felder. I see that Felder is out touring on his own, and doing songs he helped write for the Eagles (like Hotel California), but sometimes it’s better to bury the hatchet, and it would be nice if the Eagles would take Felder back into the fold as they have done with Leadon.
As for the harmonies and vocals, it is worth point out that these boys had a lot of back up—- in addition to the principles (Henley, Frey, Walsh, Schmidt, Leadon) there were five more musicians involved, various of them singing. The sound was full and rich, but when the principles actually sang alone, it was a little thin, except in the case of Henley who can still bring, and Joe Walsh who can as well…..
Hopefully the Eagles will continue to fly off into their own collective and individual sunsets, but since they are still creative, it would be nice to have one more tour, with the new material next time mixed in.