The Eagles’ pop immortality still intact: Review

The Eagles minus Don Henley (on drums, singing), photo: Rachel Kramer, Creative Commons

The Eagles ensured through a convincing Toronto performance on Thursday that their pop immortality will remain intact.

By: Nick Krewen Music, Published on Fri Jul 12 2013

The Eagles
At the Air Canada Centre, July 11
3 stars

Bernie’s back.
Bernie Leadon, the former Flying Burrito Brother and the multi-stringed-instrument specialist who was the first person to fly The Eagles’ nest as the popular Southern Californian band soared to the heights of stellar success, also became the latest former member to return to the fold.

He made his first Toronto appearance since the mid-’70s at the Air Canada Centre Thursday night.

Leadon joined principals Glenn Frey and Don Henley for “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” the second song after the founding duo of the band had started the evening with “Saturday Night,” a low-key acoustic intro that continued to build momentum throughout a three-hour, 27-song history lesson honouring a group that was a radio staple in the 1970s, and the purveyors of the country rock and California sound.

He stuck around for the first half of a rewarding trip down memory lane, as The Eagles added a member at a time with bass player Timothy B. Schmit (filling in for an ailing Randy Meisner, who was initially invited to complete the original band lineup on this tour but had to decline due to health issues) joining for “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and fellow late recruit Joe Walsh chiming in time for “Witchy Woman.”

The show, billed as The History of The Eagles, started off sleepily and intimately, with singers Frey and Henley offering stories about the start of The Eagles and the conscription of Leadon after starting off as support musicians for Linda Ronstadt and rehearsing in a shack in the San Fernando Valley.

And for a good portion of the show, the band sounded as though they were still performing in that shack, since, from my vantage point in section 120 in the stands, much of the projected music was cavernous and offered too much echo, either due to low microphone settings or a set-up that only benefited those on the floor or those in direct line with the stage.

In fact, it was quiet enough that the din of crowd conversation drowned out the softer moments of the musicians’ performances — and there were plenty of them in the first half — as The Eagles made a rare foray into their album Desperado with “Doolin-Dalton” and front-loaded the first 75 minutes with the ballads “Tequila Sunrise,” “The Best of My Love” and “Take It To The Limit.”

And that led to the second frustrating aspect of the program: some of the trademark high falsetto harmonies that The Eagles perfected and were highlights of some of the hits — particularly “Already Gone” and “Take It To The Limit” — were missing in action.

This was despite The Eagles bolstering their ranks with five additional musicians, including a trio of keyboardists and veteran utility guitarist Steuart Smith playing the role of Don Felder, the one bandmate that was not invited back to join this last hurrah.

Other than those chief complaints, Eagles’ fans couldn’t have asked for more, especially in terms of song choices. They got all the hits, including a second-half rundown of the classic Schmit ballad “I Can’t Tell You Why;” the Hell Froze Over chestnut “Love Will Keep Us Alive;” and the massive Hotel California gems “New Kid In Town,” “Life In The Fast Lane,” the title cut and as a nice surprise, “Pretty Maids All In A Row.”

In fact, The History of The Eagles also offered “The History of Joe Walsh,” as the rocker livened up the crowd with his own hit renditions of “In The City,” “Life’s Been Good,” “Rocky Mountain Way” and even back to his James Gang days for “Funk #49,” throwing in gritty guitar licks and using his talkbox to great effect, as several standing ovations confirmed.

It seemed that the audience enjoyed themselves — you could occasionally catch them singing along to “Take It To the Limit” or “Heartache Tonight,” — but they were a rather reserved bunch, perhaps keeping quiet so they could hear the flawless harmonies that were still largely intact and helped transform The Eagles into one of the most popular bands of all time.

By the time the band swung through the second encore of “Take It Easy,” “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Desperado,” an affectionate evening of nostalgia was over, and The Eagles had ensured through a convincing performance that their pop immortality will remain intact.

The Eagles return to the Air Canada Centre for an encore performance on Nov. 6.

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