The Eagles give a boisterous Sprint Center crowd a three-hour jukebox bonanza

10/24/2013 1:50 AM

10/24/2013 12:47 PM

The crowd that nearly filled the Sprint Center on Wednesday got exactly what it wanted and expected from the Eagles: a three-hour jukebox bonanza, a cavalcade of hits played just the way everyone remembers them.

Now into its fifth decade, the band launched its History of the Eagles tour in February, which brought back into the fold guitarist Bernie Leadon, who quit in 1975, making way for Joe Walsh to join. Leadon played an early role in Wednesday’s festivities, which felt at times as much like a valediction as they did a celebration.

The show opened with Don Henley and Glenn Frey taking the stage with acoustic guitars, grabbing a stool and delivering an unplugged version of “Saturday Night,” a track off the “Desperado” album. Then Leadon joined them and sang “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” a country-folk song from the debut “Eagles” album and one he co-wrote with Missouri native Gene Clark of the Byrds.

When that was over, bassist Timothy B. Schmit took the stage and joined the others in “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Then, with Henley taking his post behind a drum kit, Walsh appeared, took a seat and chipped in on “Witchy Woman.” Both of those were among the 10 tracks on “Their Greatest Hits” album, one of the best-selling records ever. Before the night was over, they would play all of its tracks.

After “Witchy Woman,” a large curtain behind them rose, revealing a large stage and a dazzling display of video screens -- 12 long rectangles arrayed atop eight shorter ones -- that broadcast videos, still photographs, old band footage and other visuals. It also unveiled five musicians (guitars, keyboards, percussion) who would add plenty of instrumental heft for the rest of the night.

Two other video screens that flanked the stage showed videos of Frey and Henley talking about the Eagles’ history, going back to their earliest days, after they split from Linda Ronstadt’s touring band and started writing songs together.

This hasn’t officially been declared the band’s farewell, but it felt like it might be. The Eagles previous tour, which supported the “Out of Eden” record, was in 2008-09. That one stopped at the Sprint Center twice within five months, nearly selling it out both times.

Four years later, their popularity hasn’t flagged even slightly, but everyone in the band is now in their mid-60s. And though they can still unleash some impressive four- and five-part vocal flourishes and Walsh hasn’t lost a step on the guitar, there were a few perfunctory moments, something to be expected when you’re singing “The Long Run” for the umpteenth-hundred time.

On the other hand, the big crowd kept the mood bright and buzzed through most of the 27-song setlist, especially during “Already Gone,” “Take It To The Limit,” which preceded the intermission, and the indestructible and indefatigable “Hotel California,” which was the first encore and which still arouses a raucous reaction.

Walsh ignited some of the loudest ovations of the night, both for his guitar fireworks and for his moments at the mic, as in “Life’s Been Good” and the James Gang’s “Funk #49.” But the loudest roar came right before “Heartache Tonight,” when Frey asked the crowd who was the lone undefeated professional football team. (“And it isn’t the Broncos,” he chided.)

They closed with “Take It Easy” and another Walsh hit, “Rocky Mountain Way.” Then Henley, accompanied by a keyboardist, sang “Desperado,” one of the band’s more beloved songs and a hymn about a life approaching its twilight. It was an apt closer to the evening from a legendary band that is still going strong after 40-plus years but at some level must be feeling the dimming of its days.

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