Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
The four Eagles may have bolted out of Alltel Arena into their separate, waiting limos hating each other the minute the show was done, but in front of 11,842 loud fans they were brothers in arms, appearing to relish every minute of their three hours on the Alltel Arena stage Tuesday night.
This was a far cry from their visit here in 2002, when elder statesman Joe Walsh was the only performer who offered much life, Glenn Frey was the only band member who spoke, and they seemed interested only in giving it the solid but no-frills performance while collecting another big paycheck.
Prices were slightly higher for the best seats this time ($154, compared with $96 the last time), but the band looked happy, the stage production was the best the band has ever featured, and nine backing musicians (including four horns) completed the package.
The quotes from interviews preceding this tour from Don Henley — that a new album, “Long Road Out of Eden,” had generated new inspiration from the group he co-founded in 1971 — proved to be more than just PR fluff. Of course, when devoted fans are still buying seven million copies of your newest release — easily the biggest sales for one recording by 60-somethings in rock history — you probably feel you owe them a little in return.
The Eagles delivered Tuesday night.
The band devoted a significant portion of the two sets to songs from “Long Road Out of Eden,” particularly to start the second set when they went acoustic. We were spared the boys breaking into a verse of “Viva Viagra,” though it might have had the place rolling in as much laughter as the lines Frey actually did utter.
It was also good to see the Eagles follow in the vein of the Who, the Rolling Stones and other aging acts who have passed through these parts recently, with video moments from their illustrious past blended with graphics and lighting changes apropos for the song in rotation. For Joe Walsh's “Funk 49,” which was recorded not with the Eagles but the James Gang, the effect was psychedelic late '60s; for “Life's Been Good,” which came in Walsh's solo period, the presentation was a family album not only of Walsh, but the rest of the Eagles, from the days when the hair was darker and much longer. Important past group members Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Felder were conveniently excised from the old photos, of course.
Felder, who was fired from the band in 2001 and has aired all the backstage dirty laundry in a new book, wasn't missed on lead guitar. Frey, who likes sports metaphors, no doubt would agree that Stuart Smith was MVP on Tuesday night, handling all of the missing Felder's riffs note for note, and even some of Walsh's on “Life's Been Good” while Walsh strolled the stage in bizarro fashion donning a helmet-cam. Smith, a co-producer on the new record, even nailed the Leadon-like pedal steel effect in “Peaceful Easy Feelin' ” and contributed to the spot-on harmonies.
The guys ditched denim for dark suits and ties this time. They each got a chance to talk, rather than deferring to Frey. Henley, who didn't utter a word in 2002's show — probably because he felt he'd said more than enough in an earlier solo visit — recalled days growing up not far from here (in north Texas) when his father would sneak him into Oaklawn Park.
Frey, though, was ringleader and had the quips. “Welcome to the Eagles' assisted-living tour,” he said early into the show. Probably more than half the crowd could relate, and most sang along to the familiar hits once again. Everyone, including the band, still remembered all the words.