Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Eagles Have Landed (In Town)

Published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 5-20-2008

[Note: I don’t write movie reviews, or book reviews, and especially music reviews. So, unlike the typical Rolling Stone write up, this one doesn’t contain phrases like “aspiring transcendence”, or “chords of dissent”. However, if you’re an Eagles fan AND you like a bit of humor, then you might find this entertaining…]

“I don’t care what it cost; the next time the Eagles are in town, we are going to their concert.”
– My wife (every time we watch an Eagles concert DVD)

Granted, I’m not big on concerts…anymore. In fact, the only concerts I’ve attended in the past dozen years, or so, have been elementary school productions (turns out, they frown upon stage diving).

Today, there aren’t many recording artists I would invest the time, money, or hassle to witness live. But, the Eagles are among the few elite bands (still alive) that I consider worth the investment.

We missed the Eagles “Farewell” tour a few years ago (not for lack of trying) and they haven’t been back in town since. So, about five months ago, when the Eagles announced their schedule for their “Long Road Out of Eden” tour, we were surprised to learn Atlanta was their first, and only, U.S. date listed – one night, at a brand new venue (still under construction), in a northern suburb of Atlanta (avoiding downtown is ALWAYS a plus).

Now, knowing when they’ll be here doesn’t necessarily equate to obtaining tickets – especially since the new amphitheater only seats 12,000 (for a little perspective – the population of metro Atlanta is over 5 million – they'd have to play 416 shows in order for all of us to see them). However, the night before tickets officially went on sale, my wife stumbled upon an “All Access” website that guarantees tickets within twenty rows of the stage (for a price that would make even an oil tycoon cringe). Given our previous failures at obtaining tickets via conventional routes, this option certainly had its appeal, so I bought them. (The catch: we had no idea where our seats were and we wouldn’t know until the day of the show. What’s an expensive ticket without a little adventure, eh?)

A few days before the concert, my wife called ahead to see if tailgating is permitted. She was told, “Heavens no! This is Alpharetta.” So we kept the grill and cooler at home. But when we pulled into the parking lot of the new "Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park" (now there’s a mouthful), which is nestled in an office park (uncongested by residential cross-streets), we discovered dozens of folks tailgating – right in front of the cops!

When I inquired with one of the enthusiastic parking attendants about tailgating he said, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Duly noted.

Entering the gates of the amphitheater, it became immediately obvious just how long the Eagles have been around. I felt as though I had stumbled upon a secret convention of chaperones. (Where has the time gone?)

We mingled in the commons area among the numerous concession stands, beer carts, and restrooms (soaking it all in – so we could let it out later). Surprisingly, the lines were short for everything, with the exception of the ladies room – though, according to my wife, it moved quickly. We got some drinks and a t-shirt then headed to our seats – which turned out to be twelve rows back, dead center (sweet).

While the stage crew was preparing the set (testing spotlights and conducting microphone checks), a number of stagehands strapped four crewmembers (each with a headset and a spotlight) into bucket seats and hoisted them high into the lighting rafters. (We never saw them again, or their spotlights – which led us to speculate it was punishment for dropping equipment, or trying to talk to the band.)

About fifteen minutes after the advertised start time – and while it was still daylight – the band members began to take the stage (the horn section first, then the keyboard players and drummers). With the exception of a few members, it looked like the same crew from the "Farewell Tour" DVD.

The crowd hardly broke from their chatter.

Then, like a group of nonchalant businessmen in black suits and black ties, Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Timothy B. Schmit walked single-file onto center stage. They casually waved to the rousing crowd, picked up their guitars, briefly conferred with each other, and then started right in with a song from their new album called, “How Long”. [For the complete song list, see end of column.]

The audience stood and cheered. Well, with the exception of the guy next to me (in his khakis and pressed dress shirt). Either his wife just told him she wrecked their yacht, or he’s never heard of the Eagles before, because he just stood there with his arms crossed – completely motionless.

Between new songs, Glenn Frey took a moment to speak to the audience. “Welcome to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park and a bunch of other corporate sponsors. It’s great to be back here in Atlanta." (I swear he sounds like he could be the cousin of Kermit the Frog.)

“We’re going to do a couple of more songs from the “Long Road Out of Eden” album ...while we’ve got your attention." The crowd chuckled politely and he continued, "The next song features Timothy B. Schmitt here on vocals and it’s called, ‘I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore’.”

Everyone sat down.

The audience remained seated during the next song too. It was Joe Walsh’s new song, “Guilty of the Crime” (seems this crowd is pacing themselves – like the stiff next to me).

Then the trumpet player kicked-off the next song with a southwestern-style solo. But it wasn’t until the hauntingly familiar guitar intro (played masterfully by Steuart Smith on his twin-neck guitar) did the audience realize it was “Hotel California” (though, it’s the same intro they used on their last tour).

The screen behind the band, which to this point was simply awash in background lighting, became illuminated with the image from the “Hotel California” album cover. The audience went nuts. Not only were they playing one of their classics, but they’re jumping right into their all-time greatest hit.

When the lyrics began, Mr. Henley became just another voice in the crowd, as the entire audience (except for the guy next to me, of course) sang in unison, “On a dark desert highway...”

The moment was surreal. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this song since its initial release, but seeing it performed live with a chorus of 12,000 seemed to add another dimension to it.

They went on to play several more classic songs before they took a break. At which point, we strolled back out to the commons area. My wife got in line for the restroom and I went to order some food.

The menu offered a dizzying array of options. I was standing behind these two “older” ladies who were also trying to decide what to order. I leaned forward to ask them what they recommended (I was being facetious, since this place just opened). One lady said, “The hot dogs are pretty good.” Her friend, however, assured me that they’ve never eaten here before. Then she did a double-take and said, “You must be pretty important since you're wearing a badge.” (Actually, it was an opening-night souvenir badge distributed at the gate. I guess they ran out before these ladies arrived.)

At this point, they both turned to face me…and they had that “look” – like I was the last scarf at an Elvis concert.

You see, this is why my wife shouldn’t leave me alone in public. Where is she?

“Uh, this badge means nothing,” I said, while trying to deflect their attention. “The chicken teriyaki looks good.”

In fact, I discovered the chicken teriyaki came on a foot-long skewer (not as a sandwich, like I imagined it would), and it was dripping in teriyaki sauce. I swear they stuck the whole chicken on the stick. I got myself a chicken tender basket, however, when my wife saw the monstrous chicken teriyaki, she handed it back to me and took my tenders. It took me four songs (with a flimsy plastic fork and knife) before I was finished wrestling with it.

The last dozen songs of the show were all powerhouse, no seat necessary, big hits.

The images on the screen during many of the songs made you almost forget to watch the band. During “Life’s Been Good” it featured candid seventies snapshots and film footage of the band members doing various things other-than performing. (Speaking of Joe Walsh, did you ever notice he’s easier to understand when you’re drunk?)

Tabloid covers and Fox News clips filled the screen during “Dirty Laundry”. And psychedelic, Beatles-like imagery playfully drifted about during “Funk Number 49” – a fitting tribute to one of the band’s major influences. During “Heartache Tonight”, the lighting changed to valentine-red and vintage, slap-stick movie clips of “heartbreak” scenes were synchronized with the music.

The band left the stage after “Rocky Mountain Way”, but they were summoned back for a three-song encore by uproarious applause and a waving sea of cell phone lights (a scene that would have made the amphitheater's corporate sponsor proud).

The band may have been a little rusty during the first two songs, but they were near recording-studio perfect the rest of the evening. We were thrilled with their performance. Though, I can’t say that for Mr. Happy next to me.

As we exited the gates, my wife pulled me close and said, “The next time they’re in town, we have got to see them again.”

I felt my wallet cringe.

The Eagles
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park
Alpharetta, Georgia (North Atlanta)
Wednesday May 14, 2008

Song Lineup (3-hour show with no opening act)

How Long
Busy Being Fabulous
I Don’t Want Hear Anymore
Guilty of the Crime
Hotel California
Peaceful Easy Feeling
I Can’t Tell You Why
Witchy Woman
Lyin’ Eyes
Boys of Summer
In the City
The Long Run


No More Walks in the Woods
Waiting in the Weeds
No More Cloudy Days
Love Will Keep Us Alive
Take It to the Limit
Long Road Out of Eden
Walk Away
One of These Nights
Life’s Been Good
Dirty Laundry
Funk #49
Heartache Tonight
Life in the Fast Lane
Rocky Mountain Way
All She Wants to Do is Dance
Take It Easy


Anonymous said...

I really should have been there!

Sunshine said...

I had to look twice - I thought my husband posted that quote! I have been saying that ever since we met - and I FINALLY got tickets this time! WOO HOO!

Thanks for the synopsis!