Forty-four years, millions of miles, six Grammy Awards and a rap sheet as long as your arm have etched an indelible mural onto the faces of the rock icons known as the Eagles — Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh, joined by founding member Bernie Leadon. On Monday night, the sexagenerians brought three solid hours of a living anthology of some of the world’s best-known rock to Charlottesville’s sold-out John Paul Jones Arena.
The “History of the Eagles” tour is just that — a history told properly from inception to the present. It is the history of artists who came together in 1971 to form one of the world’s most popular and well-known bands. It is a history of growing pains that pushed individual members outside their comfort zones to strike out on solo careers that are just as well known as their collaboration. The tour embodies the history of a generation.
Two barstools and two acoustic guitars set the perfect stage that Don Henley and Glenn Frey took to recreate the early days of their songwriting partnership; opening with the ever-mellow “Saturday.” The history, the story, progressed with Leadon taking the stage, soon followed by bassist Schmidt. The Eagles’ pitch-perfect harmonies and precisely orchestrated melodies were reminiscent of original recordings.
The relaxed atmosphere was embodied by “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” until guitarist Walsh strolled onto the stage and the crown erupted in applause. That was the first clue that this show would not be a quiet evening with the Eagles.
Walsh restrained his well-known court jester antics through the next progression of hits from the outlaw-themed 1973 album “Desperado,” which included “Tequila Sunrise,” into 1974’s transition album “On the Border” with “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Best of My Love”. As the setlist forged through tracks from “One of These Nights” into “Hotel California,” the beat and excitement followed, and the audience was treated to signature Walsh anthems “In the City” and “Life’s Been Good.”
By the time the band broke into the James Gang cover of “Funk #49,” the earlier restrained Walsh and audience were on their feet and ready to dance; they were treated with three encores. The haunting “Hotel California” signaled the Eagles’ first “Good Night,” and they came back for more with a blending of “Take it Easy” into an extended version of Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way.” The final goodnight was heralded with the ever-famous “Desperado.”
Videography from the “History of the Eagles” documentary, reminiscent of MTV music videos, filled the backdrop screen, and live stage shots seamlessly channeled the chemistry, intensity and intimacy of the performance. The sound mix was perfectly fine-tuned to blend with JPJ’s sometimes problematic acoustics.
“History of the Eagles” was delivered with the purest emotion, reverence and camaraderie that has come to be expected from such legendary collaborative artists of this caliber.