Eagles At The Air Canada Centre
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By Nick Krewen
Throughout more than four decades, six-time GRAMMY winners the Eagles, led by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, have built themselves into one of the world's biggest bands, with more than 150 million albums reportedly sold worldwide to date. As the prime purveyors of the Californian country/rock sound, it's easy to see why: Since their formation in 1971, the Eagles have earned renown for pristine harmonies and memorable, meaningful songs that have become standards over the years.
Currently in the midst of their History Of The Eagles tour, the band stopped at Toronto's Air Canada Centre on July 11 for a three-hour nostalgic trip down memory lane highlighted by the return of founding guitarist Bernie Leadon.
Leadon made his first appearance onstage for "Train Leaves Here This Morning," an obscure gem from the Eagles' eponymous self-titled debut. The performance followed the low-key entrance of Henley and Frey from opposite ends of the platform for an acoustic duet of "Saturday Night," another rarely performed number from 1973's Desperado. After Leadon's reintroduction, Timothy B. Schmit (filling in at the early juncture for original bassist Randy Meisner, who was invited to join the reunion but had to refuse due to health issues) joined for "Peaceful Easy Feeling," followed by guitarist Joe Walsh for "Witchy Woman."
Leadon remained for the first set that encompassed the Eagles' catalog circa 1972–1975 as the band — now flanked by five additional studio musicians, including journeyman guitarist Steuart Smith — delved into material both rare and classic: "Doolin-Dalton" and the "Desperado" reprise from the album of the same name, and familiar staples such as "The Best Of My Love," "One Of These Nights," "Already Gone," and "Take It To The Limit," the higher falsetto harmonies notably absent from the latter two numbers.
After a brief break, Walsh took the lead for "Pretty Maids All In A Row" from the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-inducted Hotel California (1976) — a preview from a Walsh-heavy set that included several of his solo hits, a nod back to his days with the James Gang for "Funk #49," and of course, the unforgettable riff from his biggest Hotel California contribution, "Life In The Fast Lane," garnering several standing ovations from the 16,000 in attendance. Schmit also received favorable reactions with his sweetly sung ballads "I Can't Tell You Why" and "Love Will Keep Us Alive."
The Eagles' amazing harmonies served them well again for "Heartache Tonight." Though the band added slight variations to the original arrangements for several songs, they stayed true to the blueprints for favorites such as "New Kid In Town," "Take It Easy" and "Hotel California," right down to every exquisite note of the double-guitar faceoff between Walsh and Smith.
Clocking in at three hours, it would be difficult to find an Eagles fan who wasn't satisfied with the choice of material or the enjoyable way it was fulfilled. Although this tour has been stated as a possible last hurrah, one hopes the Eagles reconsider as there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.
"Train Leaves Here This Morning"
"Peaceful Easy Feeling"
"The Best Of My Love"
"One Of These Nights"
"Take It To The Limit"
"Wasted Time" (reprise/pre-recorded)
"Pretty Maids All In A Row"
"I Can't Tell You Why"
"New Kid In Town"
"Love Will Keep Us Alive"
"In The City" (Joe Walsh)
"Life's Been Good" (Joe Walsh)
"The Long Run"
"Funk #49" (James Gang)
"Life In The Fast Lane"
"Take It Easy"
"Rocky Mountain Way"
(Nick Krewen is the Toronto-based co-author of Music from Far and Wide: Celebrating Forty Years of the Juno Awards, a contributor to The Routledge Film Music Sourcebook and has written for The Toronto Star, TV Guide, Billboard, Country Music. He was a consultant for the National Film Board's music industry documentary Dream Machine.)