In a nostalgic, high-energy concert Wednesday night at KeyArena, celebrated California rock band the Eagles showcased its rich musical history with personal anecdotes, documentary footage, dazzling videos and a 27-song parade of hits that included “One of These Nights,” “Take It to the Limit” and “Hotel California.”
A capacity crowd of mostly middle-aged fans cheered, clapped and sang along to the tunes that propelled the band to stardom in the 1970s and defined the laid-back California sound of the era — a blend of country, folk, rock and blues.
Though there was no opening act, the show was stocked with enough Joe Walsh songs to make his spotlight segments seem like a concert within a concert.
The nearly three-hour concert — part of the band’s summer 2013 “History of the Eagles” tour, which resumed in Seattle after an August recess — opened when Don Henley and Glenn Frey, on acoustic guitars and vocals, took the stage for the wistful country-rock ballad “Saturday Night.”
“This portion of the show is meant to give you a feeling of what it was like in the early summer of 1971,” Frey said, recalling the band’s first sessions at a hole-in-the-wall studio in Los Angeles.
Guitarist and singer Bernie Leadon, an original Eagle appearing on the “History” tour, joined them for “Train Leaves the Station.” He was followed by singer-guitarist Timothy B. Schmit for a beautiful “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” featuring four-part harmonies. Finally, guitarist and singer Joe Walsh strolled out for the bluesy “Witchy Woman,” adding his distinctive guitar sound to the second single from the band’s self-named 1972 debut album.
For the next segment showcasing the band’s second album, “Desperado,” a curtain rose to reveal an elaborate set of video screens at the rear of the stage. “Doolin-Dalton,” about a band of Old West gunslingers, was followed by “Tequila Sunrise.” Sepia-toned film clips linked the ‘70s rock stars to the gunfighters of another era.
The show’s third segment began with Frey on a soaring “Already Gone,” accompanied by a humorous video of the singer-guitarist motoring across the U.S. in a red Mustang convertible. “Best of My Love” (the band’s first No. 1 single, in 1974), “Lyin’ Eyes” (written after observing the patrons at an Italian restaurant on L.A.’s Santa Monica Boulevard), “One of These Nights” and “Take It to the Limit” followed.
Backing the quartet of Henley, Frey, Schmit and Walsh were musicians Leadon, drummer-percussionist Scott Crago, guitarist Steuart Smith (filling the role of former guitarist Don Felder); and keyboardists Richard Davis, Will Hollis and Michael Thompson. On some songs, more than half the musicians on stage joined in on vocal harmonies, giving the tunes a rich, full sound.
After a short intermission the band returned with “Pretty Maids,” “I Can’t Tell You Why,” “New Kid in Town” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive.” The crowd came to its feet for the bluesy, hard-rocking “Heartache Tonight” (which Frey said had been inspired by the Beach Boys’ version of “Barbara Ann”).
Walsh, looking more youthful than his fellow bandmates in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, leather pants and two-toned shoes, sang the lead vocals on “In the City” and “Life’s Been Good” (which also showcased his bluesy, hard-rocking guitar style). The latter was accompanied by a cartoonish video of Walsh in a Godzilla suit stomping through a metropolis. A howling version of the James Gang’s “Funk No. 49” featured Walsh and Frey on dueling guitars.
The main set closed with the spirited “Life in the Fast Lane.” For the first encore, Smith played double-necked guitar on the band’s signature “Hotel California” (with Henley on lead vocal).
The second and final encore featured a trio of classics —“Take It Easy,” Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” (using a “talk box” to modify the guitar sound) and the timeless “Desperado.”