The Scene: As I approached the Pepsi Center on Saturday night I noticed something that you don’t usually see more than 30 minutes before the scheduled start time of a show . . . a long, long line stretching from the East entrance well around the side of the building. There were literally three or four hundred people lined up, waiting to go through metal detectors just inside the doors . . . yes, you read that right, metal detectors – at an Eagles show. Now, I’m not judging or profiling anyone as God knows that middle aged yuppies are about as likely to shoot a place up as anyone else these days, but suffice it to say that I was surprised to see such strict security measures in place on Saturday.
Once I got through the doors, the crowd was about what you’d expect from a band that enjoyed their hey-day in the mid-late 70’s. There were a lot of 50-60 somethings with old tour t-shirts on or, in some instances, freshly purchased ones stretched over their button downs. There were dads and sons sipping water as they waited for the lights to go down and of course their were groups of suburban couples out for a rare night in the big city. It was a tame and relatively “buttoned-up” crowd, but when the band took the stage it was deafening in the big room. There was a lot of pent-up energy that was showered on the stage over the course of the three hour performance.
Eagles: I’ll get this out of the way right up front, I’ve been a fan of the Eagles since I was a kid growing up in the 80’s and raking leaves for my Dad with their greatest hits tapes playing on my yellow Sony Sports Walkman. I know that Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski “hates the fucking Eagles, man” but I’ve got to take issue with The Dude, and I’ll tell you why:
1) They’ve got some of the best harmonies in the business (right up there with the old Crosby Stills & Nash).
2) Their songwriting is up there with the best of them (“There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face. They pretended not to notice, they were caught up in the race.” – “Life In The Fast Lane” or “You see it your way and I see it mine, but we both see it slippin’ away.” – “Best Of My Love”)
3) They had hits with ballads like “Best Of My Love” and “New Kid In Town” while also cranking out rockers like “Life In The Fast Lane,” “Hotel California” and “One Of These Nights.”
If you were to select critically important attributes of a Rock band they would include things like great vocalists, great guitarists, great songwriters and, of course, plenty of hits and quite simply the Eagles had it all . . . and on Saturday night at The Pepsi Center they proved they still do.
They opened the show with an attempt to show the packed venue what it was like when the band got together back in 1971. Don Henley and Glenn Frey emerged, armed with acoustic guitars, and kicked the show off perched on roadcases with the Desperado cut “Saturday Night.” Though many in the crowd probably thought this was a nod to the fact the show was taking place on a Saturday night, it’s actually the song they’ve started every show on the History of The Eagles tour with (in fact they stuck to the same setlist they’ve been playing since the tour kicked off in July.) From there Frey and Henley were joined by former Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon, then late era bassist Timothy B. Schmidt, and finally the legendary Joe Walsh on successive songs ranging from a stripped down take on “Peaceful Easy Feeling” to a new arrangement of “Witchy Woman.” It was a great way to ease into the show and though the set was occasionally interrupted with canned speeches from Frey and Henley that recounted the history of the band, the only real glaring missteps came when the canned speeches were actually pre-recorded and shown up on the jumbo-trons on either side of the stage. That said, the band delivered exceptional versions of classics like “Already Gone,” “Best of My Love” and a set ending “Take It To The Limit” that left the audience buzzing about what was to come next.
During the setbreak my wife and I speculated as to whether the band was using pre-recorded backing tracks to help them flesh out the massive harmonies that they were known for in the 70’s but we watched closely during the second set and came to the conclusion that they were singing every note. While Henley and Frey (and yes even Joe Walsh) were all in great voice for the night, it was Timothy B. Schmidt’s performance of “I Can’t Tell You Why” that simply blew me away. At 65 years old, the man can still hit the high notes and carry the most beautiful of tunes.
After the set slowed down a bit with the relative schmaltz of “New Kid In Town” and the Hell Freezes Over track “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” the show cranked up a few notches and featured fan favorite Walsh on the talkbox for the Long Run track “Those Shoes” and then a trio his own tunes including “In The City,” “Life’s Been Good” and the James Gang hit “Funk #49.” Walsh electrified the crowd with his antics and dazzled them as his fingers shredded the fret-board. The band wrapped the set with one of their highest energy songs, “Life In The Fast Lane,” and the crowd exploded knowing they were in for at least a few more tunes. After an obligatory encore of “Hotel California” the band led the crowd in a sing-along of “Take It Easy” before letting Walsh loose on the Mile-High faithful again with “Rocky Mountain Way” (again a standard part of the setlist and sadly not a special addition for the Colorado crowd.) The show wrapped up three hours after it had started with Henley delivering a masterful vocal on the plaintive classic “Desperado.”
There have been rumors that this Eagles might well be their last, but then again this is the same band that said they wouldn’t get back together until “hell freezes over” back in 1980. Either way, this show left me thrilled to have been able to see them perform and even more satisfied that I ever thought I could have been.
Set 1: Saturday Night*, Train Leaves Here This Morning^ Peaceful Easy Feeling#, Witchy Woman%, Doolin-Dalton, Tequila Sunrise, Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise), Already Gone, The Best of My Love, Lyin’ Eyes, One of These Nights, Take It To The Limit
Set 2: Pretty Maids All In A Row, I Can’t Tell You Why, New Kid In Town, Love Will Keep Us Alive, Heartache Tonight, Those Shoes, In The City, Life’s Been Good, The Long Run, Funk #49, Life In The Fast Lane
Encore: Hotel California, Take It Easy, Rocky Mountain Way, Desperado
* – Henley & Frey Acoustic
^ – Henley, Frey & Leadon Acoustic
# – Henley, Frey, Leadon & Schmidt Acoustic
% – Henley, Frey, Leadon, Schmidt & Walsh
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: B+