When it comes to the Eagles, one of these nights is pretty much like all the rest. The long-running country-rockers are something other than dynamic on stage, and their set lists rarely fluctuate. But if the fans at Air Canada Centre on Thursday expected to see the same show as the ones performed on the Eagles’ last jaunt (The Long Road Out of Eden Tour, 2008 to 2010), they might have been startled with some of the switch-ups offered. Here are the top 10 surprises from a band whose career and fortune were made by music that was peaceful, easy and predictable.
10) “Seems like a dream now, it was so long ago.” The concert began in low-key manner, with Don Henley and Glenn Frey alone, reminiscing harmonically and wistfully on Saturday Night, a lovely track retrieved and dusted off from the Eagles’ 1973 album Desperado.
9) Frey, who acted as something of an emcee (either on stage or with pre-taped historical narration on the video screens), described the first part of the concert as an attempt to recreate the vibe of the band’s early days in Southern California, when they rehearsed in a “little shack in the San Fernando Valley.” Speaking of beginnings, original guitarist Bernie Leadon joined the two amigos for the obscure Train Leaves Here This Morning, a co-write with the Byrds’ Gene Clark from the Eagles’ self-titled debut. Leadon took the first train out of Eagles land in 1975. The current tour, which supports the DVD documentary The History of The Eagles, marks his return.
8) After loveable guitarist Joe Walsh joined his band mates on stage for a bluesy version of Witchy Woman, Frey told the story behind the inspiration for the Desperado album, which involved a book on the gun-fighting Dalton Gang. The full band (with sidemen too) settled into Doolin-Dalton, an easygoing folk-rocker sung by Henley and with bassist Timothy B. Schmit mellowing out on harmonica.
7) Henley, who moved around from behind the drums and other times in front (with guitar and without), sported a tidy goatee. At age 65, he is now officially a greybeard.
6) From Frey, commenting on how Witchy Woman came together: “Believe it or not, back then we used to jam.” An astounding historical tidbit from a band not known for musically taking things to the limit.
5) After an intermission, Walsh made his presence felt, beginning with his tranquil Pretty Maids in a Row, from Hotel California. We’re all aware that his Maserati did 185 and that he was versed in 49 varieties of funk, but who knew Walsh had a sensitive side?
4) The biggest applause of the night? It might have been the big hand for the sweet-voiced Schmit and the gentle earnestness of Love Will Keep Us Alive.
3) He can walk the walk, but can he talk the talk-box? Walsh (who charmed and uplifted with non-Eagle numbers Life’s Been Good, Funk #49 and Rocky Mountain Way), brought out the squawky guitar-vocal effect for Those Shoes, a wildcard from the 1979’s The Long Run.
2) Shockingly, a segment of the crowd actually rose from their seats for the FM-rock classic Hotel California. “Some dance to remember,” Henley sang, “Some dance to forget.”
1) The closer was Desperado, a heart-string tugger about walking through the world alone. A no-doubter. Some things never change, nor should they.
The Eagles play Salmon Festival, Grand Falls, Nfld., July 13; Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, July 15; Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Sept. 6 and 7; Rexall Place, Edmonton, Sept. 9; Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Sept. 11 and 12; Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon, Sept. 14; MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Sept. 15; Bell Centre, Montreal, Nov. 4; Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Nov. 6.
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Peaceful Easy Feeling
The Best of My Love
One of These Nights
Take It to the Limit
Pretty Maids All in a Row
I Can’t Tell You Why
New Kid in Town
Love Will Keep Us Alive
In the City
Life’s Been Good
The Long Run
Life in the Fast Lane
Take It Easy
Rocky Mountain Way