On Wednesday, Jan. 22, The Eagles began the second week of their six-night stand at Los Angeles' newly refurbished Forum presenting an evening of music entitled "The History of the Eagles."
To start things off, founders Don Henley and Glen Frey entered from opposite sides of the stage carrying acoustic guitars. They opened with the deep cut "Saturday Night" off their second album Desperado, signaling that the history of the band wouldn't necessarily be told chronologically. A mandolin could be heard in the mix, but I had no idea if someone was playing it off stage or it was a recorded track. Henley talked about the band forming. The mention of Linda Ronstadt got a nice round of applause as did mentions of "the Valley," and the year "1971," leaving no doubt about the crowd's demographics.
Founding member Bernie Leadon joined them and sang lead on "Train Leaves Here This Morning" from their debut, Eagles. While he would play with the band through the remainder of the first set, it seemed a bit odd not to have included him during "Saturday Night" since he played the mandolin on the album. Original bassist Randy Meisner was asked to join the tour, but couldn't due to his health. Timothy B. Schmidt, who replaced Meisner in 1977, came out next to join in on "Peaceful Easy Feeling," a song that reminded Frey of Poco, coincidentally another band that Schmidt took over for Meisner. Their four voices together created great harmonies. Henley laid his guitar flat in his lap and played it like a set of bongos. Leadon's ability to conjure such wonderful lilting sounds was the highlight. Henley moved over to a set of drums for "Witchy Woman" and Joe Walsh completed the main line-up.
A video of Frey and Henley discussing the album Desperado played while the well-oiled machine that was the road crew prepared the stage for the remainder of the show, which would feature a lot of keyboards and at least four other musicians. Their song choices moved through the years as they closed out the first set with songs from On the Border and One of These Nights, which included their first #1 single "Best of My Love" and the title track of the latter, featuring Schmidt playing one of the best opening bass riffs in rock. Guitarist Steuart Smith, who replaced Don Felder after he was fired in 2001, played the solo. "Take It To The Limit" was dedicated to Meisner with Frey singing lead in his place, but Meisner's memorable vocals proved irreplaceable that evening, as Frey was understandably unable to due justice to the song.
The second set was mainly comprised of tracks from Hotel California and The Long Run and since Leadon left the band before those albums were released, he did not return with them. For those who like their Eagles laid back, this portion of the show started with slow numbers Walsh's "Pretty Maids All in a Row" and Schmidt's "I Can't Tell You Why". The pace picked up rather quickly with the raucous "Heartache Tonight". Walsh played some wonderful slide guitar. Frey asked for the old timers in the crowd to get on their feet, which was appropriate as they went into "Those Shoes," featuring Walsh on the talk box.
Since they were telling "The History of The Eagles," I wasn't expecting any solo material from the band members. I was surprised and as delighted as the audience when they started Walsh's "Life's Been Good To Me So Far" with Smith showing what a guitar whiz he is. The spotlight returned to Walsh after "The Long Run," when they went all the way back to 1970, before there were an Eagles, to play "Funk #49" by his old band, James Gang.
They encored with what they had obviously passed over, arguably their best songs. The trading guitar solos during the epic "Hotel California" still retains the ability to send listeners soaring. It's always unfortunate when it has to come to an end. They took a brief break and came back with Leadon in tow for the final encore, but it wasn't all country rock from Leadon's tenure as sandwiched between their very first single "Take It Easy" and the classic "Desperado" was another song from Walsh's pre-Eagles days, "Rocky Mountain Way."
"The History of The Eagles" finds the band performing songs from their impressive collection at a high level. It's a concert worth seeing if the tickets are in a range you find worth paying. If I hadn't found the cheap seats on the side of the stage, I wouldn't have gone. The tour is scheduled to run into 2015.