The Eagles – Mt Smart Stadium

Eagles (18)The Southern California hit-makers brought their History Of The Eagles documentary to life last night, presenting the sold-out audience at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium with Don Henley’s and Glenn Frey’s version of the band’s legacy, while playing just about every Eagles song you could think of, and then some.

But before we get to the main event, a quick word of praise to Australian country singer Kasey Chambers, who opened the show. Her 45 minute set was an absolute delight and the fans who were there early…she took the stage at 6:30…were treated to a feisty set that included some fine picking from her father, Bill Chambers, along with a country-fied version of The White Stripes Seven Man Army.

The evening was advertised as “History Of The Eagles Live In Concert”, and the first hour of the show was just that, a live version of the warts-and-all documentary film about the legendary country-rockers.

The show began with founding members Don Henley and Glenn Frey sitting centre-stage, acoustic guitars in hand, strumming and singing the nostalgic Saturday Night, a little-known tune from their 1973 album, Desperado.

“Seems like a dream now, it was so long ago. The moon burned so bright and the time went so slow”, the two veteran rockers, now both well into their sixties, sang.

Henley then spoke, welcoming the audience to the tour and then providing some narration to their “live concert documentary”, recounting how the band formed in 1971 after he and Frey had met playing for Linda Ronstadt. After telling how the met original guitarist Bernie Leadon, who left the band in 1975, Leadon strode on stage to join his ex-bandmates, and the trio performed Train Leaves Here This Morning, and beautiful song Leadon co-wrote with former Byrd Gene Clark and which the Eagle recorded on their debut album.

Next it was Frey’s turn to narrate, introducing Peaceful Easy Feeling and explaining how the song, written by Jack Tempchin, reminded him of country-rock pioneers Poco, who, at the time, featured future Eagle Timothy B. Schmit on bass. Schmit dutifully appeared on stage and the trio harmonized on the 1972 hit.

Then it was Leadon’s turn to speak. He explained how he and Don Henley wrote Witchy Woman and how they had worked up a new arrangement for the old tune. By this time Henley was set up behind a drum kit at the side of the stage and Joe Walsh joined the group, unannounced. The new version featured a funkier, almost disco-style drum beat and a bluesy guitar solo from Walsh.

The stage then went dark and a pre-recorded video of Glen Frey appeared on the large stage screens as the full band set up. Frey was describing the making of Desperado and we were treated to Doolin’ Dalton and Tequila Sunrise from that album, and after more pre-recorded narration by Henley and some Old West film footage, a reprise of Doolin’ Dalton along with a bit of Desperado, with Leadon playing banjo.

By this time the band had expanded to included guitarist Steuart Smith…who filled in for the expelled (and never mentioned) Don Felder, along with drummer Scott Crago and three keyboard players.

The pre-recorded videos continued with Glenn Frey explaining how the band changed to a harder-rocking sound and launched into Already Gone. It’s one of my fave Eagles tunes, but for whatever reason, didn’t really rock hard enough for me tonight.

By this time I was feeling that I’d had enough of the narration…it tended to slow down the pace of the show and the corny video clip of Glenn Frey driving around the US while they played Already Gone didn’t help.

Fortunately the talking did let up and Don Henley turned in a heartfelt version of The Best Of My Love. His 67-year-old voice strained to hit the higher notes a few times, but that just added a bit more poignancy to the performance.

The band banged out three more hits before leaving the stage…Bernie Leadon’s guitar licks shone throughout Lyin’ Eyes, and One Of These Nights and Take It To The Limit, written for original bassist Randy Meisner, kept the crowd singing along.

The music resumed shortly after 9pm with Joe Walsh taking the spotlight with Pretty Maids All In A Row, Joe’s contribution to 1976’s Hotel California. By this time the Eagle had become a very different band…Leadon was gone, and so were the easy-going country-rock tunes, replaced by a colder, more cynical sound that reflected the decadence and drug-taking culture the Eagle found themselves a part of in the latter part of the 1970s in Los Angeles.

Songs like New Kid In Town and Those Shoes, while still retaining the Eagles’ classic harmonies, told a very different story to the peaceful easy feeling depicted earlier in their career.

This version of the band, with Walsh now a full-fledged member, alongside guitarist Don Felder, rocked much harder.

It was Walsh who really shone during this second half. After a hand-clapping Heartache Tonight, Joe showed off his vocoder skills on Those Shoes, then took the spotlight for a couple of his own hits, In The City and Life’s Been Good.

This version of the Eagles finally sounded like a real band during Life’s Been Good, with Henley obviously enjoying drumming to the song. Even the corny film clip of Walsh dressed in a Godzilla suit didn’t take the edge off of this performance.

After a perfunctory The Long Run, Walsh was back in action treating the crowd to the classic riff of Funk #49, a minor hit by his pre-Eagles band, The James Gang. This came after a rather silly “guitar-duel between Walsh and Glenn Frey that segued into the tune.

With the band working up a serious head of steam, Life In The Fast Lane, again featuring Walsh’s signature riff, closed out the show.

Of course we all knew it wasn’t over.

There was no way these guys were leaving without playing Hotel California and they did. Watching the Eagles perform their mega-hit was like watching a giant coming to life.  Everyone joined in for a singalong and all was right with the world.

The Eagles’ first hit, Take It Easy was notable by its absence early in the show and it was obvious they had kept it for the encore. Bernie Leadon returned to help out and more singing from the crowd ensued.

Joe Walsh got one more chance to show off his stuff with Rocky Mountain Way

Finally, after almost three hours, Don Henley got the last word in with a stately Desperado, bringing the show to a nostalgic close.

By this time they had played just about every Eagles song I could think of and fans were singing their own versions of Hotel California and Take It Easy as they filed out of Mt Smart Stadium.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by David Watson:


Eagles set list:

  1. Saturday Night
  2. Train Leaves Here This Morning
  3. Peaceful Easy Feeling
  4. Witchy Woman
  5. Doolin-Dalton
  6. Tequila Sunrise
  7. Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)
  8. Already Gone
  9. The Best Of My Love
  10. Lyin’ Eyes
  11. One Of These Nights
  12. Take It To The Limit
  13. Pretty Maids All In A Row
  14. I Can’t Tell You Why
  15. New Kid In Town
  16. Love Will Keep Us Alive
  17. Heartache Tonight
  18. Those Shoes
  19. In The City
  20. Life’s Been Good
  21. The Long Run
  22. Funk #49
  23. Life In The Fast Lane
  24. Hotel California
  25. Take It Easy
  26. Rocky Mountain Way
  27. Desperado