The Eagles at BankAtlantic Center, October 27

The Eagles

BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There are three things one can expect from an Eagles concert. One, a perfect performance. Two, a bundle of hits. And three... well, with one and two each a given, who needs a "three"? Those who have seen the sometimes-feisty foursome during one of their ongoing so-called "farewell" tours can bear witness to the predictability of their performances. For me, a DVD might have sufficed.

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Imagine my surprise then when the Eagles turned in a performance that served to bring a new dimension to their music. Henley, Frey, Schmit, and Walsh are polished professionals, but I'd have guessed that spontaneity isn't exactly their forte. After all, Frey and Henley have been at it more than 40 years without altering their template, and Schmit and Walsh -- the former with Poco and the latter with the James Gang and on his own -- have plowed their own paths for just as long. (For the record, all four are well over age 60 and nearing retirement age.) Their veritable radio-staple hits are so familiar that an attempt to simply retrace their million-selling catalog would seem enough to make the show a success.

Happily, then, the band rises to the occasion and gives its audience all that and more. One would be hard-pressed to find a better show in terms of execution and song selection. Perfectly choreographed, it dismissed the stereotypes this band has occasionally found itself tagged with -- that of country rock or jock rock or whatever else the pundits care to call them. In fact, they adroitly steered the show from the songs featuring their mellow, sweeping harmonies -- still flawless, by the way -- to those that literally rocked the joint and had the audience on its feet dancing and swaying along. The former -- an opening a cappella offering of "Seven Bridges Road" plus "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "One of These Nights," "Best of My Love," "Lyin' Eyes," and several songs from their most recent album, 2007's superb Long Road Out of Eden -- allowed dazzling displays of the band's remarkable vocal virtuosity. The latter, mostly dominated by Walsh -- who at times threatened to steal the show via showcase songs "Walk Away," "Life's Been Good," "Funk 49," and the obligatory "Rocky Mountain Way" -- found him and Frey mugging agreeably, with a four-piece brass section, the so-called Blow Hard Horns, turning the proceedings into something akin to a revival. Even Henley's icy visage seemed to melt at times.

Truth be told, the Eagles have long since evolved from the cozy acoustic combo that ensconced itself in its Laurel Canyon digs back in the early '70s. These days, they're an uptown big band that depends on the support of three extra keyboardists, a drummer that subs for Henley (who now opts for occasionally strumming a guitar and playing incidental percussion), multi-instrumentalist Al Garth (once a staple with Loggins and Messina), and guitarist Stuart Smith, who's been elevated to the front line, handling the majority of departed member Don Felder's signature guitar parts. Practically every member of the back-up crew contributes to the harmonies as well.

Still, the extra personnel only add to the show's perfection. A series of shifting scenes on the big screen behind the band created a cinematic impression, from idyllic landscapes illustrating their classic California ethos and dazzling city views to colorful cartoons, psychedelic slides, and home movies of the band carousing around early on. Frey played a perfect emcee, giving the concert a slick, Vegas-like feel while also ensuring the connection between the artists and their audience. Moreover, the sheer length of the concert -- played out in two parts plus a generous four-song encore over the course of three and a half hours and nearly three dozen selections, including Eagles gold and several of their solo hits -- ensured that the crowd got all it anticipated. Ultimately, no one could ask for more. Hotel California proved a hospitable place where, indeed, no one wanted to leave.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: As fond as I am of the newer songs from Long Road Out of Eden, the show seemed to kick into high gear once those tunes were dispensed with and the opening notes of "Hotel California" trumpeted a roll call of familiar hits.

Random detail: The foursome still look great, like frat boys, in fact. Long-haired Tim Schmit and Joe Walsh (now a dead ringer for a mugging Iggy Pop) serve as the hippie contingent while Henley and Frey look like slick California surfer dudes.

By the way: Note to the BankAtlantic Center -- $25 for parking? Really?

Setlist:

Set One

Seven Bridges Road

How Long I Don't Want to Hear Anymore

You Are Not Alone

Hotel California

Peaceful Easy Feeling

I Can't Tell You Why

Witchy Woman

Lyin' Eyes

Boys of Summer

In the City

The Long Run

Set Two

No More Walks in the Woods

Waiting in the Weeds

No More Cloudy Days

Love Will Keep Us Alive

Best of My Love

Take It to the Limit

Long Road Out of Eden

Walk Away

One of These Nights

Life's Been Good

Dirty Laundry

Funk #49

Heartache Tonight

Life in the Fast Lane

Encore

Tale It Easy

Rocky Mountain Way

All She Wants to Do Is Dance

Desperado


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