When it was announced last year that the Eagles would be the first band to play the newly renovated (and formerly “Fabulous”) Forum in Inglewood, Calif., tickets flew out the door.
It doesn’t matter that the band has been on an on-again-off-again touring cycle for decades now; there’s too much emotion, and history, here. This is a band that defined a large part of the California sound in the ’70s, returning to the roost that hosted so many classic artists over the years.
Adding to the excitement, the 46-year-old Forum, almost all but forgotten as a concert venue since the glittery Staples Center opened in 1999, would be unveiled in all its shiny new glory during the Eagles’ shows. Everything old would be new again, and over the course of a recent week and a half, the Eagles had a prime opportunity to reconnect with the city that made them famous.
The renovation is indeed something of a marvel. What was once a funky and serviceable sports arena doubling as a concert venue has been reborn as an exclusive concert theater — warmer, cushier and far more intimate than it is when the Lakers and Kings play there. As a result of all of the carpet and cushions now lining the place, the sound in the venue is also a lot better.
JD and the Straight Shot, a blues-based rock band led by sports-team owner and communications magnate James Dolan, opened the show on Jan. 22. Refreshingly, his set didn’t come off like a businessman getting his onstage kicks simply because he has the power to make it happen. Dolan has developed a parallel life for himself as a bandleader and composer, and presented his soulful group with no pretense. He clearly loves getting lost in the groove, and whether barreling through a series of down-home original tunes (several of which have appeared on movie and TV soundtracks) or covering wistful chestnuts by Little Feat and It’s a Beautiful Day, JD and the Straight Shot set the tone for the evening’s main musical course.
A little after 8PM, the Eagles’ two leaders, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, wandered out from opposite sides of the stage to a warm and emotional ovation. Wielding acoustic guitars, they kicked off the show, which turned into a sprawling three-hour tour of the Eagles’ history and music.
The set’s pacing was dictated by the 2013 documentary ‘History of the Eagles.’ The first portion of the concert was mostly acoustic. The two bandleaders were eventually joined by bassist Timothy B. Schmidt, founding guitarist Bernie Leadon and guitar hero Joe Walsh. Presenting early songs in an almost campfire style was an incredibly effective way of reminding people just how important the Eagles were to the sound of Southern California in the ’70s.
Hits like ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling,’ ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘Best of My Love’ were like catnip for the adoring audience, which got lost in nostalgia and music. But the group also mixed in some impressive deep-cut curveballs, including ‘Doolin-Dalton,’ ‘Saturday Night’ and ‘Train Leaves Here This Morning.’
Against a sweeping video backdrop that presented plenty of California imagery, the Eagles loosely and playfully delivered more chunks of their hit parade before taking a brief intermission. First-set-closing classics like ‘Lyin’ Eyes,’ ‘One of These Nights’ and ‘Take It to the Limit’ were performed just as they had been on record originally, but with enough spontaneous soul so that nothing ever seemed like it was being phoned in.
The second act focused on the latter part of the Eagles’ history, which includes lots of Walsh, who brought an electric edge and suitcases full of style to the band. He still delivers in spades.
Youthful and energetic, with shoulder-length and platinum rock-star hair, Walsh stole the show from his bandmates at times. After proving to be an effective balladeer on ‘Pretty Maids All in a Row,’ he took advantage of every opportunity to spread his wings on ‘In the City,’ ‘Those Shoes’ and his autobiographical solo hit ‘Life’s Been Good.’
Schmidt also got some time in the spotlight, especially on the angelic ‘I Can’t Tell You Why.’ But as even Henley admitted before taking center stage for ‘The Long Run,’ Walsh is a tough act to follow.
By the time they got around to the encores — which included a biting ‘Hotel California,’ a soothing ‘Take It Easy,’ a metallic and manic ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ and a tender ‘Desperado’ — the audience was both satisfied and exhausted by the Eagles’ journey.
The night proved to be a musical and emotional roller coaster for both band and fans. The Eagles reminded the crowd why they’ve remained such a venerable part of music’s fabric over the years. That night, with an arena full of fans who grew up with them (along with some of their kids), the Eagles’ long and satisfying victory lap seemed like it could go on forever.
Photos From the Eagles’ Show at the Forum in Los Angeles, Jan. 22, 2014