By Scott Halasz
FAIRBORN — The history of legendary rock band the Eagles came alive at Wright State University’s Nutter Center Wednesday.
Through stories and music, the crowd of 10,173 went on a journey with founding members Don Henley and Glenn Frey from the moment they walked out on stage and gave each other a fist bump, to the final sounds of piano-heavy “Desperado.”
In between fans were treated to the Eagles at their best — fantastic harmonies, heartstring-tugging ballads and rock-and-roll jams — as they continued the multi-year History of the Eagles Tour.
It began immediately. Frey sat on a stool and Henley on an amp case and they played “Saturday Night.” Henley told the approving crowd that the first portion of the nearly 3-hour show was intended to give fans an idea of late summer in 1971 when founding members sat on any furniture they could scrounge and got to know each other personally and musically.
Henley went backward a bit and explained how the Eagles first came to be when founding members branched out on their own after playing in Linda Ronstadt’s backup band. Searching for members, Henley said a producer recommended guitarist Bernie Leadon, and at that point Leadon walked on stage and joined the other two, singing “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” which he wrote while in Dillard & Clark.
Leadon’s appearance was a surprise, as the band has been touring as a quartet with several tour musicians.
Frey took over as balladeer and recalled a song written by Jack Tempchin which was reminiscent of the band Poco. Out came former Poco member and Eagles member Timothy B. Schmit, who joined the other three for the harmonious country-music inspired “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.”
A blues-infused version of “Witchy Woman” followed as final band member Joe Walsh came out.
As the stage was rearranged, a video with Henley telling the story about the “Desperado” album played. Of course the obligatory Old West-style trifecta of “Doolin’-Dalton,” “Tequila Sunrise,” and “Doolin’-Dalton/Desperado” (reprise) followed.
The first set concluded with hits “Already Gone,” “The Best of my Love,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “One of these Nights” and “Take it to the Limit.”
“The Best of my Love” was the band’s first No. 1 single while Frey dedicated “Lyin’ Eyes” to his first wife … “Plaintiff.”
The second set began without Leadon, who rejoined for the second encore. The band played more and told fewer stories and it featured some of the biggest hits. After Schmit nailed “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and the band belted out the countryish/bluesy “New Kid in Town,” it was finally time to kick it up a notch as “Heartache Tonight,” and “Those Shoes” preceded Walsh hits “In the City,” “Life’s Been Good,” and “Funk 49,” which was sandwiched around Eagles’ hits “The Long Run” and set concluder “Life in the Fast Lane.”
The latter portion of the show allowed Frey and Walsh to showcase their guitar playing ability as extended solos were prominent, many times bringing the crowd to its feet.
The first encore featured arguably the band’s biggest hit, the rock anthem “Hotel California.” The band briefly left the stage again and returned for three final songs: “Take it Easy,” which was covered by country singer Travis Tritt in 1993 and led to the band’s reunion, Walsh smash hit “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Desperado,” a song covered more than 20 times and ranked No. 494 in Rolling Stone’s 2004 release of the top 500 songs of all time.
While harsh words were spoken when the band broke up in 1980, it was quite evident the members are still enjoying each other’s company. During “Take it to the Limit,” Frey mentioned it was a song originally sung by founding member Randy Meisner and gave the former bandmate a shout out. They also displayed a playful side at times, especially during an extended intro of “Funk 49” which featured Walsh and Frey in a game of duelling guitars.
Perhaps the most emblematic moment came when Henley said that disco and punk took center stage in 1978, soliciting a chorus of “boos” from the crowd.
“Look who’s still here,” Henley said.