April 21, 2012
MGM Grand Garden Arena
Las Vegas, NV USA
Review by Terry Walsh
Photos by Gabe Ginsberg
Seriously, how many bands in the world today can play two solid hours of hits, and still leave the crowd complaining about the one's they didn't perform? Less than a handful that's for sure. More importantly, how many groups today can get you and your spouse on an airplane to Las Vegas, because the music and the memories they evoke have been so interwoven in their own lives? For this particular scribe, the answer was simply, The Eagles. Playing their only announced U.S. date this year, before a packed house at the Garden Arena inside the majestic MGM Grand, The Eagles left little doubt as to why they remain one of rock's most enduring icons.
Starting with the opening chords of "Seven Bridges Road," the band eschewed their usual opener, "Hotel California", for this brilliant remake built on perfect harmonies and subtle instrumentation. From that dazzling launching point, they jumped right into "How Long" from their 2007 release The Long Road Out Of Eden. The song, easily one of the best on this multi-platinum effort, would have fit in perfectly on any of the band's '70's albums. From there the group segued into "Take It to the Limit", with Glenn Frey taking on the vocal chores, originally handled by former bassist Randy Meisner. Like almost everything else The Eagles do live, the music and the singing remained faithful to the original version, albeit without the soaring vocals made famous by Meisner at the song's end.
Though The Eagles focus this evening was hits, several song selections came from Joe Walsh's personal catalogue. He opened his solo hit parade with "Walk Away" from the James Gang's landmark 1971 Thirds album. The crowd immediately recognized the classic, jumped to their collective feet, and cheered loudly throughout the song. Joe would also offer up "Funk #49", "Life's Been Good" and his legendary ode, "Rocky Mountain Way." Don Henley also got in on the act offering up two of his solo gems, "Dirty Laundry" and the rock anthem, "The Boys of Summer." There would be no 'deep cuts' pulled out of the proverbial hat to delight this audience, though I will admit I missed hearing "On The Border" and "Victim of Love." Strangely enough, there wasn't one selection played off 1974's On the Border, including its No. 1 hit, "Best of My Love." Oh well, you can't have everything.
Don Henley and Glenn Frey may be the heart and soul of The Eagles, but Joe Walsh is definitely its alter ego. Since cleaning up his act in 1994, Walsh has gotten even better (as if that were possible). This evening, his guitar playing was nothing short of spectacular. A perfect example was his talk box solo during the evening's second encore, "Rocky Mountain Way." There were times in years past when Walsh seemed to mail in his performance during this song as if bored silly by it. Tonight, he attacked the composition as though it had just debuted on the charts. It was quite refreshing to see him approach a song he's played hundreds of times in the past with such vigor.
One important feature The Eagles have incorporated into their performance over the years is a vastly improved visual aspect of their show. In a now famous quip, Rolling Stone magazine once described an Eagles concert as "five guys loitering on stage." While the group certainly doesn't jump around and scream on stage, their timeless music was enhanced tonight by a large video backdrop that displayed several still images. One was the infamous "Hotel California" backdrop as well as amusing videos which poked a little fun at member's often serious image. It included a parody of Don Henley on the cover of Time Magazine hailed for solving global warming, and the dapper duffer Glenn Frey gracing the cover of Golf Magazine for winning his latest PGA tour event. If nothing else, these tongue-in-cheek moments demonstrated the band's mainstays indeed had a sense of humor after all.
As usual, Henley, Walsh, Frey and Timothy B. Schmidt were augmented on stage by several sidemen that brought a serious punch to The Eagle's sound. Most notable among these musicians was guitarist Steuart Smith and drummer / percussionist Scott Crago. Though Smith (who replaced Don Felder in 2001 following his infamous falling out with Henley and Frey) didn't write some of the memorable riffs Felder originated, most notably "Hotel California", he played them nonetheless to perfection. While an Eagles die hard would love to have seen Felder in the lineup, no one was cheated hearing and watching Smith perform the music with utmost precision. In fact, he handled the lead on numerous songs while Joe Walsh took a backseat with his instrument. It was a simple nod, and a sign of respect by the legendary musician, to Smith's incredible talents. It was never more apparent during Henley's "Dirty Laundry". Smith and Walsh traded solos during the middle and end of the song to the delight of the crowd.
The Eagles built a stellar reputation throughout the '70s not only behind remarkable songwriting, but their incredible gift for harmonizing. Tonight those vocals were on full display, from the opening number on through such magnificent compositions like "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "Witchy Woman" and "Lyin' Eyes". Those goose bump moments were enhanced by the voice of the ageless wonder, Timothy B. Schmidt. His vocals were spot on throughout, sending the female faction in the crowd into hysterics, especially when he sang his signature hit, "I Can't Tell You Why".
The evening came to roaring, thunderous close with the one, two, three punch of Walsh's "Funk #49," "Heartache Tonight" and "Life in the Fast Lane". As the band returned for its encore, Glenn Frey stepped up to the mic and graciously thanked the crowd for staying with them for "these past few 40 years". With that platitude behind them, The Eagles went back in time to play their very first hit from their self-titled debut album, 1972's "Take It Easy". Follow that up with Walsh's ubiquitous "Rocky Mountain Way" and the obligatory closer, "Desperado", and you had a crowd soaring high into the night.
As the wife and I did our own 'walk away' from the MGM Grand, it was hard to suppress the smiles on our face. We had indeed been a part of The Eagles the past 40 years, and enjoyed every rocky road the band had traversed. Tonight, we saw the stars in the southern sky as we travelled down the seven bridges road with Don, Joe, Glenn and Timothy. And what a trip down memory lane it was!
Seven Bridges Road
Take It To The Limit
Peaceful Easy Feeling
I Can't Tell You Why
The Boys Of Summer
In The City
The Long Run
Life's Been Good
Life In The Fast Lane
Take It Easy
Rocky Mountain Way