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all words: Kerri Pinchuk, all photos: Jason Dixson

I floated out of the Verizon Center, sky-high on adrenaline and sporting an undoubtedly goofy grin, and headed toward 6th Street. Police officers were beginning to hold traffic in all directions, while limousines and black town cars lined the curbs for blocks, waiting for their diplomatic passengers to exit the building in a similar stupor. A teenager fell in step beside me, and he asked if I knew what was going on. “The Eagles just played at Verizon,” I explained, without even attempting to hide my excitement. He seemed perplexed. His eyes conveyed his question: “Who?” All I could do was stare right back. I fought the urge to shake my fist and mutter at him (“YOUTHS.”)—it’s not his fault  that I have the music taste of a 63-year-old hippie man.

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With a handful of accompanying musicians and a dramatic stage show, The Eagles are on tour celebrating 42 years (minus a 14-year hiatus) of being one of America’s greatest rock bands. On Monday, the evening of Don Henley’s 66th birthday, the guys played a through-the-years anthology of Eagles hits for 20,000 fans at the Verizon Center. A vast sea of baby boomers reliving the good ol’ days. The best kind of fans.

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Typically I prepare to cover a show by listening to the band’s albums and live sets on YouTube, and doing some light Wikipedia reading. In this case, however, I went straight to the source: I grabbed dinner before the show with my uncle, a true music fan who ticks off his summer concert schedule (America, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Doobie Brothers) like a grocery list.

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“In the beginning,” he said, “there was Don and there was Glenn.” He talks about the original band, the departure of Randy Meisner, and the bands’ two lives—the folky, country rocking 1970s before the break, and the mid-90s through today. The History of the Eagles 2013 Tour is the band’s own personal time machine; a majority of the setlist in chronological order, with some commentary and narration sprinkled in.

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When the lights go down at 8:06 p.m., Henley and his partner in singing-songwriting Glenn Frey walk out with their guitars, drag over a couple of stools, and begin to play. They open with “Saturday Night,” and we get a hint of what the night’s going to bring.

 

 

“This portion of the show is intended to give you an idea of what it was like in the late summer of 1971,” Don says. This was back when Don and Glenn were on tour with Linda Rondstadt, who suggested that they check out guitarist Bernie Leadon if they were serious about putting together a band. Out walks Leadon, and the crowd goes wild. They dive into “Train Leaves Here This Morning.”

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The introductions continue this way, as Timothy Schmidt joins the others for a crowd favorite, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”  (“Who likes country rock in Washington, D.C.?” Glenn asks) and those soul-stirring harmonies begin to sound near-complete. Finally, badass heartthrob Joe “Never met a hotel room he couldn’t wreck” Walsh struts on stage just in time for a brief guitar solo and a groovy rendition of “Witchy Woman,” and the band is complete.

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The lights go down once again, the curtain rises, and the rock ‘n’ roll drama of the show reveals itself in a massive stage design of stage-to-ceiling screens. They loop pictures and video of the rolling desert, the open road, the night sky, and an Eagles-themed pinball machine (yup). Timothy Schmidt plays the opening riffs of “Tequila Sunrise” on harmonica, and there’s the faint scent of marijuana blowing in the stadium breeze.

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As the band continues to make its way through the years, they touch on highlights (“Best of My Love” became their first #1 single; they wrote “Take it to the Limit” for original band member Randy Meisner; etc.), and it becomes hard to even fathom how much they’ve done in 40+ years. True, they have accompaniment, but despite the help their voices and instruments sound near-perfect. And for a bunch of 60-somethings, they sure have a lot of energy on a school night.

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After intermission (outfit changes!), the band picks up the pace a bit, and you can sense that they’ve entered the distinctly rock ‘n’ roll part of their career.  (“I don’t know about you guys, but I gotta move!”—Glenn-ism #248.) They do a version of “Heartache Tonight” modeled after a favorite Beach Boys performance of “Barbara Ann,” getting the whole crowd out of their seats and clapping along. Even the jacked security guards perched in front of the stage are bopping their heads and dancing.

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JoeWa steals the spotlight for back-to-back, high-energy versions of “In the City” and “Life’s Been Good.” He runs back and forth across the stage in his Ramones tshirt, and while you can imagine he may have been a bit faster in the 90s, his moves are still pretty impressive.

 

The second set closes with “Life in the Fast Lane”  but we know it’s only a matter of time before they come back and give us what we really want. And finally, the band reappears and gets down to business: the audience goes wild at the first chords of “Hotel California.” Then they come back again for a second encore with a triple threat: “Take it Easy,” “Rocky Mountain Way,” and finally, happily, “Desperado.”

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If there’s one word to define the evening, it’s  “nostalgia.” During intermission, the woman behind me tells the story of that time she was in a bathroom stall next to Stevie Nicks. The middle-aged couple in front of me can’t keep their hands off of each other. A few rows up, a lady with cascading gray hair dances in her own dreamy world through the entire show (including part of the setbreak).

 

I kept finding myself with the chills, wondering if there’s any band out there today who’ll have endurance and impact in the way that The Eagles did—and do. Can anyone else sing about sleeping in the desert surrounded by stars, or love keeping us alive without being shunned for obscene levels of cheesiness? The answer, my friends, is no. Bad timing prevented me from seeing the band in their formative years, but their performance on Monday night was indication that The Eagles are still flying high. Better late then never, right?

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SETLIST:

 

  • Saturday Night
  • Train Leaves Here This Morning
  • Peaceful Easy Feeling
  • Witchy Woman
  • Doolin-Dalton
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)
  • Already Gone
  • The Best of My Love
  • Lyin’ Eyes
  • 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
  • Heartache Tonight
  • Those Shoes
  • In the City
  • Life’s Been Good
  • The Long Run
  • Funk #49
  • Life in the Fast Lane

 

 

Encore:

 

  • Hotel California

 

Encore 2:

 

  • Take it Easy
  • Rocky Mountain Way
  • Desperado
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