Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Dave Carlock - A Day In The Life
THE EAGLES SOAR AND WALSH ROCKS PT. 1
Originally Posted: 10-25-2013 8:20 PM
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This past weekend, I made the trek through a chilly fall drizzle to Chicago's Allstate Arena to see a friend in the Eagles organization, and at the same time, catch the band live for the first time on their “History Of The Eagles Tour”. I had one chance to see them on the “Hell Freezes Over Tour” 19 years ago, but passed on the $120 ticket, which seemed excessive back then. Today, with the “big rock show” being the real purse for artists since record sales have declined, a top ticket price of $120 for a legend would seem like a bargain!

To begin the show, Detroit native Glenn Frey and Don Henley entered the stage with acoustic guitars. Instrument amps and cases were all around and a drum set was set up all the way Stage Right facing inward—all on flat stage. They explained that this was what it was like when the two first broke off from Linda Ronstadt's backup band and started woodshedding songs in a small little room in a parking lot next to a liquor store, “which was convenient”, they quipped, before launching into “Saturday Night”. The stage set's illumination from several bare-bulbs flown down from the rigging underscored their humble beginnings, looking even bleaker in the gigantic arena.

The stage band began to grow as original Eagle Bernie Leadon joined the two principals for “Train Leaves Here This Morning”, and Timothy B. Schmit joined on bass for “Peaceful Easy Feeling” while the crowd got their first taste of “those” 4-part harmonies, which still sounded great, and aside from the songs themselves, were perhaps the biggest part of why everyone had a ticket.

A couple songs had some updated arrangements, including “Witchy Woman”, whose changes weren't dramatic, but an improvement. Joe Walsh joined the stage on this one and from that point forward, the full band performed, though a few spare keyboard parts showed up mysteriously in songs like “Doolin' Dalton” and “Tequila Sunrise”… Hmmm. Was there more to see?

Yes, there was, and as the rear curtain disappeared, a more traditional large concert stage setup was revealed, now with a total of 9-10 musicians at various times: 4 guitars, bass, Henley on drums, a percussionist who covered drums while Henley came up front to play an additional 5th guitar (!!), and 2-3 keyboard/percussion players. No detail of the songs' arrangements was spared. I became aware of how many harmony lead guitar lines were featured in many of the tracks and the band made sure there were enough hands on deck to recreate them all.

Following “Tequila Sunrise”, the front line was quickly struck by a small army of stage hands, as everyone took their new places on the gigantic stage. Backed up by dramatic, vertical-arcing LED video panels, the band was frequently dwarfed by awe-inspiring video imagery. Throughout the night, the wall could split and move left and right to reveal a massive, traditional 16:9 HD video display centered above the band. This was saved for use mainly in the second set as a great method of show build. A 3-hour show with well over half of the setlist comprised of ballads or mid-tempos needs a solid strategy to keep the audiences engaged visually, and the Eagles' show design team pulled it off beautifully.

Once the full stage set was in place, Frey told a story about the band's switch from producer Glyn Johns to producer Bill Szymczyk. Recalling how they told Szymczyk they wanted their new records to “rock more” proved a perfect segue into “Already Gone”. “Best Of My Love” showcased the band's vocals yet again and the heavy overdrive of the multiple guitars in the intro of “One Of These Nights” hit the audience with a crunchy fuzz, at least one notch up from what we hear on Classic Rock radio.

One of the show's absolute highlights was “Lyin' Eyes”. The 4-5 part chorus harmonies were nothing short of a spiritual experience. This crème de la crème of melancholy, cynical, middle-of-the-road ballads never sounded better than with 18,000 Eagles fans singing along--and I mean that in a good way!

Funnily, for all the hassle Glenn Frey famously gave Randy Meisner for having trouble singing the high notes in “Take It To The Limit” live, Frey himself took the key down a full step so he could sing it! After which, the band announced an intermission because “old guys like us need to use the bathroom”, as Frey put it. Ah yes, we Michiganders do have a way with words…

NEXT WEEK: Details on the second set which was OWNED by Joe Walsh, who Chicago embraced like a prodigal son, even though he's from New Jersey!

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Dave Carlock
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