The Eagles, Not Quite Taking It to the Limit

By Dave McKenna
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, July 28, 2008

The Eagles don't do medleys. That, and a barrage of non-oldies, kept music history's fifth-best-selling pop act from getting to all its hits Saturday at the Verizon Center, even with a show that had two sets and ended about four hours after it began.

The band treated the crowd to (or made it endure) about half of last year's double disc, "Long Road Out of Eden." A few fine moments resulted, the best being the nearly a cappella "No More Walks in the Wood," which brought the Eagles into Crosby, Stills and Nash territory.

Yet even though this was the band that made laid-back almost a prerequisite in rock in the 1970s, most of the new material -- including "Too Busy Being Fabulous," "No More Cloudy Days," "Somebody" and the title track -- conveyed enough of a peaceful, easy feeling to put the crowd to sleep. And the cliches got silly thick during "Waiting in the Weeds." (In a matter of mere verses, Don Henley sang "every dog will have his day," "the dream was over," "go down in flame," "floating on the breeze," "the outskirts of this lonesome town," "the flavor of the week" and "fallen out of your good graces.")

When Timothy B. Schmit sang Paul Carrack's mellow "I Don't Want to Hear Any More," he summarized how an awful lot of folks felt about the new stuff.

The four main members (Henley, Schmit, Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey) eventually began taking turns in the spotlight to render one incredibly golden oldie after another. ("The Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-1975" remains the best-selling LP of all time, with more than 29 million units moved.)

Schmit lacks the star power of his mates, but he nailed every falsetto note on 1979's "I Can't Tell You Why," the night's most soulful ballad and the closest thing to R&B in the Eagles songbook.

Henley, who bounced from guitar to congas to a full drum kit, shined brightest with his first vintage offering of the night, the period piece from 1976 "Hotel California." As he sang his solo hit "Boys of Summer," with all its built-in wistfulness -- "Don't look back! You can never look back!" -- the mostly middle-aged fans in the full house ignored the advice and nodded nostalgically. They'd paid a lot of money to look back.

Walsh, still playing the goof, provided the night's rockingest moments. He delivered non-Eagles fare including the James Gang's "Funk No. 49," "Walk Away" and "Rocky Mountain Way." He moved to his solo songbook for "Life's Been Good," as the backdrop showed dozens of very old photos of him and other Eagles. (For follicular reasons, late-model Henley looks absolutely nothing like his young self.)

Many of Frey's songs, however, haven't aged a bit. "Peaceful Easy Feeling" remains a timeless piece of casual pop -- too casual to be played by guys in dark suits and ties, which was the Eagles' uniform on this night. Frey kept things light and funny with his song introductions, too: He dedicated "Lyin' Eyes" to "my first wife, Plaintiff," and introduced "Witchy Woman" as a song "from our satanic country rock rhythm and blues period."

While those lines surely have been dropped around the globe, Frey tailored some banter to the D.C. crowd. Before "Take It Easy," he said the idea to form the Eagles came to him and Henley after an early 1970s gig at the Cellar Door, when they were both members of Linda Ronstadt's backing band.

Even sweeter local color came via Steuart Smith, an Arlingtonian and area bar-band veteran who has become in essence the fifth Eagle. Smith, who co-produced the new record and wrote more songs on it than either Walsh or Schmidt, took almost every guitar lead of the night. For fans who remember Smith's days playing for mere dozens of folks in area dives with Root Boy Slim and Switchblade, watching and hearing him nail some of the most famous licks in pop history in a full arena was like seeing a kid from the local community theater filling a lead role on Broadway.

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