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Review: Eagles' history comes alive in Boardwalk Hall show

Review: Eagles' history comes alive in Boardwalk Hall show

Eagles in Concert at Historic Boardwalk Hall,

ATLANTIC_CITY, NJ_ July_17: Performing to a sold out the legendary Eagles in Concert at Historic Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ on Friday July 17, 2016 Photo: Tom Briglia/PhotoGraphics

ATLANTIC CITY - Can you ever get tired of seeing a band as great - and popular - as the Eagles?

After 43 years, six Grammy Awards, five No. 1 singles, sales of more than 150 albums and creators of some of the most memorable songs of all time - “Hotel California” is arguably one of the Top 20 most popular and greatest songs ever written - can the Eagles really still have something to offer?

In short, yes. And a nearly sold-out Boardwalk Hall Friday night could testify to that.

Are they as good live as they once were? Certainly not. Are they going to write any more hit singles? Doubtful. Can they still offer a memorable summer night of music worth plunking down major cash for? Absolutely.

The band’s recent trek - the History of the Eagles tour - launched in 2013 in support of the relatively tame documentary that certainly could have dug deeper into the trials and tribulations of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.

And the same could be said about the related tour. Unlike past concerts, where founding members Glenn Frey and Don Henley would rarely utter a word, this tour is a more laid-back, talkative affair - a more epic “Storytellers” tour offering more than two dozen easy-listening hits mostly from the 1970s over a three-hour span.

But that chattiness is what brings down the latest tour. Hearing Frey and Henley reminisce fondly about the good ol’ days gets a little tiresome quickly, particularly in an arena setting.

Like the documentary, it could have been a lot more interesting if Frey and Henley spoke more off the cuff. Instead, you get the CliffsNotes version, where there is no talk about the turmoils, breakups, lawsuits, backstage brawls, drugs and 14-year breakup that helps define the Eagles’ history in rock ’n' roll.

That said, the band does use the format to present some memorable moments, particularly when they tell their tales to serve as introductions to the band members. including the return of original guitarist Bernie Leadon, who is brought to the forefront after Henley and Frey offer an acoustic version of “Saturday Night." They follow the sweet song explaining how Frey and Henley backed Linda Ronstadt, who told them to hire Leadon when they left her band to form what would eventually become the Eagles. Leadon emerged from backstage, smiled and then joined the duo for an inspired version of “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” which Leadon co-wrote.

Bassist Timothy B. Schmit came out to offer the high parts on “Peaceful Easy Feeling” after Frey talked about how they stole him from Poco, and guitarist Joe Walsh emerged to jam out on a reimagined version of “Witchy Woman" with Henley on drums, which he remained on for a good deal of the show.

As the night progressed, the chatter wisely decreased, and by the time the band really started humming with a slew of hits, particularly a fun, singalong version of "Already Gone," the band stalled the momentum with an intermission, an increasingly more common and frustrating tactic on today's concert scene that is even more baffling considering the Eagles sat down for most of the first, acoustic-driven set.

The History tour, of course, is full of hits, and the crowd knew nearly every word to every song, whether the mellow “Lyin’ Eyes”; “the first-set closer “Take It to the Limit,” simply a great song with killer harmonies that gave the audience hope for the second set; the timeless "Heartache Tonight," which brought the audience alive; or the Walsh-fueled “Life in the Fast Lane,” which closed the second set.

Although Henley and Frey were certainly the centers of attention, Walsh is the engine that keeps this band running - and worth seeing.

Clean and no longer that sloppy, substance-impaired guitarist that once made Henley and Frey furious, Walsh was fantastic every time the spotlight hit him. That’s why he’s the only member at this point to play his solo material on the Eagles tour, including an extended, fun version of “Life’s Been Good,” “In the City,” “Rocky Mountain Way” and one of the most fun songs of the night, “Funk #49,” from his former band the James Gang, all with one solo better than the next.

The Eagles seemed to be having fun and sounded tight thanks to the assistance of six backup musicians - do they really need that much help? - and their harmonies remain second to none.

While Walsh stood out, the rest of the band is still top notch, including Henley, whose voice sounds like it was preserved in honey despite his eligibility for Social Security.

After two encores that included a mesmerizing "Hotel California" - by far the best song the Eagles ever recorded - and a touching finale of "Desperado," it was hard to fathom the Eagles hanging it up after this tour, something Henley has said is a possibility.

But maybe they should. Wouldn't it be nice to go out with fans remembering the band at the top of their game? It's doubtful they will ever be able to top this tour that was nicely conceived, played out like a well-choreographed Broadway musical and with an entire band who can still play and sing like it was 1975.

But like the Rolling Stones and countless other bands who make one last cash grab bruising their musical reputations, the Eagles probably will do the same. For now, they still got it, and their legendary status remains untarnished.

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