If there’s a quibble about the Eagles in concert, it’s the sense that the legendary band always seems trapped by its penchant for precision.
The band’s core members – Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh – roll classic hits such as “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Already Gone” off the assembly line with nary a note out of place, a skill that can unintentionally sap the spontaneity.
So it was refreshing that the band loosened its approach in the opening moments of a generous and, yes, musically precise three hours on Saturday at a packed Amway Center.
Henley and Frey took the stage with the informal ease of a VH1 Storytellers episode for the gentle “Saturday Night,” a lesser-known song off the 1973 “Desperado” album equipped with a line tailor-made for the band’s long, hard-lived history:
“It seems like a dream now, it was so long ago,” Henley sang in a tenor that has aged as well as the hits.
It’s called the “History of the Eagles” tour, a nod to a recent Showtime documentary that mixes the music with unblinking references to the group’s occasionally acrimonious internal relationships. In concert, the history unfolded in the early moments as additional band members strolled out casually in the unplugged set:
Bernie Leadon, who last played with the Eagles in 1975, sang the forgotten early gem “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” while Schmit joined for an understated “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” More than turning back the clock, the acoustic set framed oldies in new ways, such as a slinky “Witchy Woman” that introduced Walsh into the mix.
Yes, these songs have been around for a long time, but that didn’t diminish the appeal of hearing them again in note-perfect form: “Tequila Sunrise,” “The Best of My Love,” ”One of These Nights,” “Take It to the Limit,””New Kid In Town,” “Hotel California” and “Life In the Fast Lane,” to name a few.
Happily, Walsh remains the loopy counter-balance to Henley and Frey’s earnestness, lifting the band out of deep mellowness with his slide guitar on “Heartache Tonight,” wah-wah-powered solo on “In the City” and comical mugging on “Life’s Been Good.”
It has been for the Eagles, a band with history worth celebrating in the long run.