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The Music Scene

Posted: 1:41 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

Concert review: The Eagles give fans a marathon show in Atlanta 

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Eagles
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
The Eagles switched from a small stage setup to this expansive performance area a few songs into their three-hour-plus show on Monday.

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Eagles trio photo
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Original Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon joined Henley, Frey and the rest of the band for the first set of the show.
Glenn Frey photo
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Frey was battling a cold during the show.
Henley photo
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Henley still hit the high notes on most songs.
Walsh photo
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Joe Walsh is still the band's wild card.
Timothy B. Schmit photo
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Timothy B. Schmit hasn't lost any of his angelic voice...and still has his trademark locks.
Bernie photo
Robb D. Cohen/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Original guitarist Bernie Leadon was a welcome sight.
Sign photo
The Eagles would like you to pay attention, please.

By Melissa Ruggieri

“This may be the last time we’re here and we want you to be with us in the moment,” Don Henley said at the start of the Eagles’ marathon concert.

He was referencing the band’s remarkable request that fans turn off their phones during the show and, you know, pay attention to the music.

“We’re all so distracted these days. It’s hard to just be in the moment,” Henley noted.

Throughout the three-hour-plus show (including an intermission) Monday, about 90 percent of the sold-out crowd at Philips Arena complied with the band’s appeal (there’s always that handful to whom rules and requests don’t apply). The Eagles are a traditional band that has been playing since vinyl and 8-tracks ruled music instead of compressed downloads, so can you blame them for wanting their fans to remember their live show from experiencing it rather than from viewing it through a screen the size of a saltine?

And if this was indeed the last time Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit (and, for a portion of the show, original guitarist Bernie Leadon) brought their colossal catalog of hits to Atlanta, fans could not have asked for more.

This “History of the Eagles” tour, which began in July as a complement to their comprehensive documentary of the same name released earlier in 2013, is a full-fledged summary of their career – and beautifully staged as well.

The first of their two sets focused on the bones of some of their songs, with Henley and Frey acting like emcees of an episode of “VH1 Storytellers.” The pair, casually clad in their usual uniform of jeans and loose button-down shirts, looked like a couple of guys in a bar band as they sat on stools with their acoustic guitars and played “Saturday Night.”

One by one, the rest of the band entered as the set list flowed – Leadon for “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” from the Eagles’ 1972 debut album, and Schmit during “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” On a stage set up to look like a recording room in a studio, bare except for a small drum kit, some amps, stools and overhead lamps, the band slid into a recast “Witchy Woman,” which was given a throbbing funkiness overlaid with Walsh’s gritty guitar riffs (he strolled out, unannounced, at the song’s start and would remain relatively quiet…for the first half of the show).

Frey and Henley commented early that they were battling colds, an issue that sounded more severe for Frey, who strained frequently when singing lead but blended well when the Eagles hit their trademark soaring harmonies.

As video of Frey and Henley played, giving the audience insight into the creation of certain songs and albums, the stage was changed to expose a more customary arena backdrop – an expansive performance space and a wall of gorgeous panels used for visuals of dusty plains, cityscapes and, eventually, close-ups of the band.

While the show chugged along easily through the first portion of the initial set, “Already Gone,” accompanied by smoke and bright lights, marked the first moment of sizzle – and a flash of genuine friendliness when Walsh sauntered over to Schmit for the classic back-to-back-playing pose.

The Eagles aren’t known for their onstage camaraderie, and, in keeping with that tradition, there was mostly a cordial, respectful vibe among the band until the final third of the concert, when they visibly loosened and appeared to enjoy each other’s company.

But musically, they were well in sync. Schmit’s sliding bass line prompted chills during the opening of “One of These Nights” – and his angelic voice was as tender as ever on “I Can’t Tell You Why” – and Henley’s upper register hit the required notes during the ultimate last-call song, “Take it to the Limit,” which Frey dedicated to the ailing Randy Meisner.

The second, lengthier set spotlighted the inimitable Walsh, always the Eagles’ wild card whose kookiness hasn’t subsided with sobriety.

His nuanced slide guitar was a sound of beauty and his nasally voice robust during “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” But it was the eternal crowd-pleaser “Life’s Been Good,” with its iconic opening guitar riff, and an amped-up version of the James Gang’s “Funk #49” that elicited the heartiest fist pumps from fans.

Throughout the show, five longtime auxiliary players augmented the band’s sound, but guitarist Steuart Smith was the night’s MVP. Smith performed more guitar solos than anyone in the band, plucking out the lovely lines in “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” the Eagles’ bland 1994 return song, and hanging note-for-note with Walsh on “Those Shoes.”

One of the more amusing moments of the night came when Frey and Walsh orchestrated a guitar-off. Brave soul, that Frey. Guess who won?

Henley appeared to immerse himself thoroughly in a snappy read of “Life in the Fast Lane,” a song that still hasn’t lost any of its zip, and even “Hotel California” didn’t sound as tired as might be expected from its still-ubiquitous presence on classic rock radio.

Considering the band members are all in their mid-60s, this very well might be their final road trip (there are five U.S. dates left on the itinerary before a break until May for a European run).

If so, fans can hoist a lighter – or a smartphone once they left the venue – to one of the most complicated, successful, infuriating and memorable bands in rock history.

Melissa Ruggieri

About Melissa Ruggieri

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on ajc.

Connect with Melissa Ruggieri on:TwitterFacebook

Send Melissa Ruggieri an email.

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