Monday, October 21, 2013

The History Of The Eagles Concert - Chicago - The All State Arena - Saturday, October 19th, 2013

When I think back on the literally hundreds and hundreds of concerts I've seen over the past 40 years, I can honestly say that I have NEVER seen an act more perfectly and accurately perform the note-for-note perfection of their studio recordings live on stage like The Eagles. 

To a degree, this has been both a blessing and a curse.  It locks the band into an agenda that allows very little in the way of improvisation which, I'm sure at time must be a little bit frustrating for these incredibly talented players.  Critics have had a field day for decades now saying that you may as well just sit home and listen to the records (and save yourself $250 a ticket) since the band isn't all that flashy and showy on stage anyway. 

But as fans who LOVE this music, there is nothing more thrilling and exciting than seeing these guys present it live, EXACTLY the way we want to hear it.  In that respect, The Eagles haven't aged a day musically since they first created all of this great music some 35-45 years ago. 

And Saturday Night was no exception ... The Eagles, now down to just four principals (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit ... although we ALL know that there are really only TWO Eagles who count!) ... supplemented by five additional sidemen, all of whom are stellar musicians ... played picture-perfect versions of all of their greatest hits to a sold-out house who loved and appreciated every note they heard. 

What made Saturday Night's concert so special is the fact that they've revamped the song line-up this time around because this is "The History Of The Eagles" tour, most probably the last one the guys will ever do. 

Hot on the heels of their mega-successful three-hour documentary which aired recently on Showtime (and is now available for purchase for anytime home viewing), the guys have decided to revisit some material they haven't performed live on stage in YEARS! 

As such, the show is presented in pretty much a chronological fashion ... at least for the first set.  In an unprecedented move, the program begins with just Don Henley and Glen Frey sitting on guitar cases and amplifiers, each accompanied by an acoustic guitar, showing us how the group first got started ... with these two guys just hangin' out, learning how to write songs together.  

They opened with "Saturday Night", a great track from their "Desperado" album (and one I've never heard them perform live before despite the six or seven concerts I've been to.)  It again ... with just two guys and two guitars ... was a letter-perfect rendition ... and the sound balance was pure perfection. 

Next, they brought out Bernie Leadon, their original guitarist (recommended to the duo by Linda Ronstadt when Don and Glenn announced they were leaving her back-up band to try and make it on their own ... Don even got in a quick plug for Linda's new biography!)  Bernie came out and the trio next performed "Train Leaves Here This Morning", a track that Leadon wrote and sang on The Eagles' first album. 

Between songs, their story is narrated by Glenn Frey from the stage (and moved along with video clips from the "History" documentary interspersed throughout to allow the group to make any necessary instrument changes), who next tells the story of how he was sent a cassette tape in the mail of a song written by a friend of his who thought it might make a great track for his new band.  Frey explains that he liked the track because it reminded him of one of his favorite bands at the time, Poco, which presented the perfect opening for former Poco (and long-time Eagle) bassist Timothy B. Schmit to join the others on stage, at which point they all performed "Peaceful Easy Feeling" together.  Joe Walsh would join them a song later and now the band was complete.  It was an interesting and entertaining approach to presenting their story live on stage ... reminiscent in some ways of what other artists like The Four Seasons and The Rascals have done with their career-spanning presentations of "Jersey Boys" and "Once Upon A Dream".  

The Eagles' history and legend is well known ... to this day you can't go twenty minutes without hearing something by these guys on one of the radio stations in town ... yet there was something very unique and special about hearing them present their story in their own words.  While many bands often seem larger than life, The Eagles is one of the rare few who actually are ... there can't be a soul left on this planet who isn't familiar with the bulk of their catalog.  I'd like to say that they almost seemed humbled by it all ... but you've got to remember that we're talking about Glenn Frey here!  (lol) 

Leadon stayed with the band performing the entire first set, which covered all of the material he recorded with them up through the "One Of These Nights" albums.  In a VERY rare surprise move, The Eagles presented a new arrangement to their second hit "Witchy Woman", now done in a very bluesy manner.  (As you know, The Eagles NEVER deviate from the original arrangements of their material ... so this was a very nice and unexpected surprise ... and actually a very good version of this song, one of my all-time favorites by them.) 

They played several tracks from the "Desperado" album (although surprisingly not the title cut, other than in its "reprised" form in conjunction with the "Doolin' Dalton" tracks), including "Tequila Sunrise", which got a great round of applause, before moving on to their "On The Border" album, giving us "Already Gone" and "Best Of My Love" from that LP.  Then it was on to "One Of These Nights" from which we got to hear the title track and "Lyin' Eyes".  They closed the first set with "Take It To The Limit" from that same LP, paying homage to the original writer, singer and bass player on that track, Randy Meisner, who they noted was going through some health issues right now.  This was followed by a 20 minute intermission break, prior to which they promised they'd "be back ... and play for a long time". 

They did.  The second half was much looser and freer ... they didn't rely so much on the chronologically derived set this time, instead jumping around through the remainder of their post 1975 catalog ... in truth, it felt much more like your traditional Eagles concert.  (Incredibly only one "Hell Freezes Over" track was featured ... "Love Will Keep Us Alive" ... and nothing at all from their most recent releases.  Tonight seemed to be all about the history.) 

Bernie Leadon was now gone from the stage (as he was from the band by this point in their career) and the guys were rockin' harder than ever.  Classic tracks from this set included "Those Shoes" from "The Long Run", from which they also featured the title track as well as "I Can't Tell You Why" and a reworked (but just barely!) version of "Heartache Tonight".  (If I had to pick one disappointment of the night, this would have been it ... the song started out promisingly ... in fact, I half expected to hear a rock-a-billy version based on the opening riff ... but it very quickly fell into the same old, same old after quite a big build up about the new arrangement.  Even so, it was still a killer performance of a song that hasn't aged so well for some of us.  That being said, the crowd LOVED it.)  Honestly, I'd have to put "The Long Run" into that same category ... it's become a bit boring and repetitious over the years and is, in my opinion, one of the least-inventive or creative songs the band ever recorded ... plus Bob Seger does a better version of the exact same melody on his hit "Tryin' To Live My Life Without You"!!!

Throughout the night not a single hit was missed ... they covered them all.  (The only one not mentioned in this review is "New Kid In Town" ... so I'm mentioning it now!)  The band was in great spirits and the harmony vocals were nothing short of amazing.  (One cannot help but wonder if Timothy B. Schmit isn't going through a bit of David Gates syndrome ...  during a Bread reunion concert, Gates announced from the stage:  "If I had know that I'd still be singing these songs 25-30 years later, I would have written them in a lower key!"  lol) 

Chicago has ALWAYS loved Joe Walsh ... and showed it in deafening fashion Saturday Night when the band focused on a mini solo set that featured "In The City" (easily the loudest response of the night), "Life's Been Good" (the only solo hit performed by the guys all night, although Walsh recorded "In The City" as a solo track prior to re-recording it with The Eagles to include on their "Long Run" album) and "Funk 49" from his days with The James Gang.  He also took center-stage on "Pretty Maids All In A Row" from "Hotel California" and remained in the spotlight for the guitar work on "Life In The Fast Lane", a song he co-wrote with Henley and Frey ... and certainly one of the band's signature tunes, which closed the second set. 

The Eagles came back for two obvious encores ... "Hotel California", still one of the most incredible songs ever recorded ... I mean how do you write that?!?!? ... and the one that started it all, "Take It Easy", their first hit record back in 1972.  (Leadon rejoined the group on stage for this one since he, too, was on this original track.) 

All-in-all, on a scale of 1-10, this concert was a 19 ... just a PERFECT night of music, presented by some of the finest singers, songwriters and musicians of our lifetime, in a setting that allowed for pristine sound and total enjoyment.  (This was The Eagles' second stop in Chicago during their "History Of The Eagles" tour ... Frannie got these tickets for my birthday and I'm SO glad we went ... what a GREAT night of music.) 

There are still quite a few dates left on the agenda ... including an incredible SIX NIGHTS at the LA Forum to close out the tour.  The complete remaining schedule is listed below.  If you get the chance to see them, don't miss this opportunity ... it truly could very well be the last time they tour ... and this show will give you a chance to see and hear some material that they've never done in this context before.  And one of the best parts and highlights of it all ... they REALLY seem to be having fun up there doing this ... and I guarantee you that you'll feel the same way when they take you along for the ride.  (kk)  

TONIGHT - Monday, October 21st - The iWireless Arena in Moline, IL 
Wednesday, October 23rd - The Spring Center in Kansas City, MO 
Thursday, October 24th - The Scottsdale Center in St. Louis, MO 
Monday, November 4th - The Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada 
Wednesday, November 6th - The Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada 
Friday, November 8th, Saturday November 9th and Monday, November 11th - Madison Square Garden in New York City  (Three incredible shows in NYC) 
Wednesday, November 13th - The Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN 
Friday, November 15th - The Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC 
Saturday, November 16th - The Greensboro Colliseum in Greensboro, NC 
Monday, November 18th - The BJCC Arena in Birmingham, AL 
Wednesday, November 20th - The Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, FL 
Friday, November 22nd - The American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL 
Saturday, November 23rd - The Amway Center in Orlando, FL 
And then, after a short break for the holidays ... Wednesday, January 15th, Friday, January 17th, Saturday, January 18th, Wednesday, January 22nd, Friday, January 24th and Saturday, January 25th - The Forum in Inglewood, CA  (SIX incredible shows!)