by Julian Spivey
The Eagles brought their multi-year “History of the Eagles” summer tour to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark. on Monday, July 27 for what amounted to an almost three hour thrilling performance of their greatest hits.
The “History of the Eagles” is an incredibly interesting format for a tour, where the Eagles play the exact same 27-song set every night of the tour running through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career of the band and the many changes it has seen over its five decades.
Every night co-creators of the group Don Henley and Glenn Frey kick off the show with the first song that wrote together: “Saturday Night.” The duo then brings out original Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon to the stage, exclaiming that they sought him out to be their guitarist on the recommendation of Linda Ronstadt, whose band Henley and Frey started out in, to perform “Train Leaves Here This Morning” with Leadon on lead vocals. Frey explained to the likely sold out audience that these might not be the two most known performances in the group’s discography, but were integral to the beginnings of the group.
From there on out Leadon remains on the stage for the early Eagles hits and the group is joined by fellow bandmates Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh, despite the fact that those two wouldn’t join the band until the late ‘70s.
The early part of the concert was truly fascinating for me as a bigger fan of the Eagles’ early country-rock days than some of their later hits. This segment of the show featured the exquisite performances of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Already Gone,” “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Take It To the Limit,” all with Frey on lead vocals. The first segment of the show also featured awesome performances of “Witchy Woman,” “Best of My Love” and “One of These Nights” with Don Henley on the vocals sounding as great as he ever has.
Because of the “History of the Eagles” theme the group plays many of its hits almost chronologically through the night, which led to the first half being my favorite as a fan of their earliest country-rock stuff.
After a short 20-or-so minute break the Eagles returned back to the stage saying that they had reached the period of the late ‘70s where Schmit and Walsh had joined the band and this meant it was time to shine for those two. Schmit has always been my least favorite Eagles member, which sounds a little harsher I know than I really mean it to be. His songs are solid, it’s just that his high register love songs like “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive” come off a little cornier than I’d like. Almost as if they belong more at a REO Speedwagon concert than that of the Eagles.
Walsh’s performances all seemed to excite the crowd, and with good reason as he’s an incredibly talented guitarist, one of the best all-time really, and has an infectious personality that really comes across on stage. He’s always the playful one of the bunch and the audience rewards him with much applause. Despite being the “History of the Eagles” tour Walsh is given the chance to shine on some of his solo work like the crowd pleasing “Life’s Been Good” and “Funk #49,” which he recorded with the James Gang. He also took lead on his Eagles songs “Pretty Maids All in a Row” and “In the City,” which aren’t my favorite Eagles tunes. I guess you could say I’m definitely a Henley and Frey guy.
Among the highlights of the second part of the Eagles’ set were Frey’s lead vocals on “Heartache Tonight,” the last of the group’s five career No. 1 hits, as well as Henley taking lead on the rocking “Life in the Fast Lane.”
Following “Life in the Fast Lane” the group left the stage briefly to uproarious applause before returning for a terrific version of what is likely their most beloved song, “Hotel California.” “Hotel California” is an American standard, but because of this is one of those songs you hear so much early on in life that you get to a point with it where you almost turn the radio station more when it comes on than actually listen to it. However, seeing Henley and the boys do it live truly reminds you why it’s one of the all-time greatest rock songs to begin with.
The Eagles briefly left the stage once more after “Hotel California” before returning again for a terrific three-song second encore that began with Frey taking vocals on “Take It Easy,” one of my all-time favorites. Walsh then got one last chance to thrill the audience by doing another one of his solo classics “Rocky Mountain Way,” in which you could hear the bulk of the people in attendance yelling along in unison.
The Eagles saved their very best for last, in Henley’s rendition of “Desperado.” “Desperado” has always been my favorite Eagles song and hearing them close out their “History of the Eagles” show by performing it was perfection.