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‘They were the most unhappy band.’ Why Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy isn’t keen on the Eagles

Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo rehearses at the band’s farmhouse in Kendal, Ontario, on Oct. 23, 2012.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

"They were the most unhappy band on stage that I've seen."

The Eagles play Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Nov. 6, two days after Monday's concert at Montreal's Bell Centre. One person who won't be attending is Jim Cuddy, the smooth-singing crooner from Blue Rodeo. This past summer, the band (along with the Tragically Hip and Johnny Reid) shared a bill with the Eagles at the Exploits Valley Salmon Festival in Newfoundland. What he witnessed gave him an uneasy and not altogether peaceful feeling.

"The Eagles were actually exuding unhappiness," Cuddy told The Globe and Mail. "It was just terrible."

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Last week, Blue Rodeo released In Our Nature, the band's 13th album. It was recorded at the farmhouse of co-founder Greg Keelor, just as the band's landmark 5 Days in July was two decades earlier.

Blue Rodeo itself has withstood tension and lineup changes over the years. Like the Eagles, who are led by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Blue Rodeo is run by its chief songwriters, Cuddy and Keelor. Unlike the Eagles, renowned for its use of individual limousines for each band member, the Toronto-based Diamond Mine singers are known for a soulful brand of alt-country music and a warm presentation on stage.

At one point during the Eagles headlining set at the festival, Henley snapped at a fan who pointed an iPhone camera in his direction. According to Cuddy, the ornery drummer threatened to stop the concert if any more pictures were taken. "And then someone yells out, from this Newfoundland crowd, 'There's only one way out of here b'y, and you're not getting out.' "

Cuddy shakes his head at the recollection. "So, that's where the love comes from: the audience. It's 35 degrees all day long. These people have run out of water, and they're still there. Yet this band is giving so little. People paid $200, and the Eagles cut short their set so they could catch their plane out of there."

The Eagles, who once threw outrageous parties and paid heavenly bills, are one of the world's most successful touring outfits, despite friction among its members. Its 1994 reunion album Hell Freezes Over got its name from a quote from Henley, who said after the fractious group's breakup in 1980 that the Eagles would play together again "when Hell freezes over."

That album included a pair of hit singles, Get Over It and Love Will Keep Us Alive.

According to Henley, the band's current tour will likely be the last. "By the time we get through this tour, it'll be 2015 and we'll all be in our late 60s," he told Rolling Stone magazine. "It's been an incredible experience for all of us, but it may be time to say adios and bow out gracefully."

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It might too late for the graceful bit. To Cuddy's mind, part of what once were the Eagles is already gone. "I don't know why they're doing it," he said. "Either people are unaware of how little the performers are giving, or they're just hearing the songs like they're listening to the radio."

Blue Rodeo itself has no retirement plans. A Canadian tour to support In Our Nature kicks off on Jan. 2, 2014, at Vancouver's Orpheum.

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